The oldest tattoo tool in the world

Although many people like tattoos, few know their origins and even further, the instruments with which they began to be made. Made of human bone, in Tonga, Polynesia, the oldest known tools for making tattoos have been found.

These tools were determined to be around 2,700 years old, making them the oldest confirmed tattoo combs found in Oceania.

The oldest evidence on tattooed skin dates back more than 5,000 years to the age of mummies in Egypt and the Italian iceman Otzi, but tattooing tools in these locations are largely unknown. The particularity of the Tonga find also resides in the fact that a complete tattoo kit has been found: one-piece narrow combs, handle, mallet, carbon pigment, mortar, pestle and ink container. As Michelle Langley of Griffith’s Australian Center for Human Evolution Research explains:

The kit probably belonged to a tattoo artist. A tool broke and it looks like it was being repaired, so perhaps the kit was accidentally left behind or too broken to bother to retrieve. Maybe the tattoo artist got a new set. The tool itself, the shape of the comb and the way it is used, hasn’t changed much, which is why this find is so interesting. These ancient tools are still used today.

Tongan culture still retains many characteristics of its early settlers. Associate Professor Geoffrey Clark, from ANJU’s (Australian National University) School of Culture, History and Language, has noted that the discovery sheds further light on where Polynesian-style tattooing first developed.

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