Gebelein Woman
Human Mummy
Gebelein Woman
Biographical Information
Name(s) Unknown
Sex female
Status unknown
Height 1. 51 mm (5 feet )
Culture unknown
Date(s) between 3351 and 3017 BC
Site Gebelein (in upper Egypt and close to the Nile River)
Current Location
Location Thebes, Egypt
Catalog #
One of the Gebelein pre-dynastic mummies discovered by chance in the 1890s by Wallace Birch, curator of the Egyptian Antiquities at the British Museum at the time, who was looking for mummies at the Gebelein site. Now held at the British Museum, the female mummy was found to have a series of four small S-shaped motifs tattooed on her skin. They could be crooked staves or throw-sticks, batons or clappers used in ritual dance. She is to date the earliest known tattooed woman.


The desert’s dryness, salinity, and heat prevented the body from decaying, her heart, liver and lungs were very well preserved.


Gebelein Woman had staff-like and S-shaped motifs on her upper arm and shoulder. The tattoos may have indicated status or bravery, or they may have held spiritual importance,carbon-based pigment, perhaps soot, was applied to the dermis layer of the skin.

There were fractures to skull and many other bone fractures occurring after death, however, the bones are otherwise healthy. There is long brown hair present on the scalp.


Housed by the British Museum since 1900.

See also Ginger (Gebelein Man) and Gebelein Mummies.

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