Ancient Tattoo Tool Found in Utah

2000 Year Old Tattoo Tool Found in Utah. Made with native plant fibers and cactus spines.

A Ph.D. student has made an astonishing discovery – the earliest known Native American Tattoo Artifact! Estimated at 2000-years-old, this tattoo tool came from the Basket-maker II culture and was discovered in Southern Utah. The find is helping experts to understand the previously nomadic culture that was very influential in the development of the Pueblo civilization in the South-West United States. As Native Americans moved less, they farmed more, developing the need for containers to carry and store crops.  The baskets, they made used fibers from plants native to the Desert Southwest. The tattoo tool is also made from native plant fibers and cactus spines.

The newly cataloged tattoo tool is one of the first to confirm the use of body art by this early culture. The tool was unearthed in 1972 and deposited in Washington State University. According to Heritage Daily, the researcher discovered a “3 ½ inch wooden skunkbush sumac handle bound at the end with split yucca leaves and holding two parallel cactus spines, stained black at their tips.” A chemical analysis of the pigment on the tips of the cactus spines found a residue of carbon, which is known to have been used in ancient body tattooing.

Researchers reconstructed a similar tool based on the materials in the ancient one and tattooed pig skin. It works!