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PinkUnicorn

2,000-year-old tattoo needle identified by archaeologists

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Once dismissed as an “odd-looking little artifact,” the tool pushes back evidence for tattooing in the U.S. Southwest by a millennium.

The tool ismade from a bundle of prickly pear cactus spines, their tips saturated with dark pigment, inserted into a handle carved from lemonade sumac and bound with yucca fiber.

Some 2,000 years ago, a tattooist in what’s now southeast Utah used this tool to hand-poke a design into someone’s skin. After the point of one of the cactus spines broke off, the tool was likely tossed into a trash heap. It remained there for centuries, in a pile of bones, corncobs, and other discarded items.

 

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