World's oldest tattooing tools are 2,700 years old

The tool kit was unearthed by Jens Poulsen, who was then working for the ANU, but a bushfire in Canberra in 2003 may have burned the ink pot, although the tools were recovered unharmed.​

Published: 05th March 2019 01:29 PM  |   Last Updated: 05th March 2019 01:29 PM   |  A+A-

Image for representational purpose only.


CANBERRA: Australian researchers on Tuesday revealed that the world's oldest tattooing kit, which was found decades ago in Tonga, dates back 2,700 years and some were made of human bones.

The researchers believe that two of these four tools were made of human bones and the other two with skeletal remains of birds, Efe news quoted a statement from the Australian National University (ANU) here as saying.

ALSO READ | Will Japan's attitude towards tattoos change ahead of 2020 Tokyo Olympics?

"These bone tattoo combs are a very specific type of technology found across Oceania," said Geoffrey Clark, ANU expert, referring to the tools used to make the linear designs of Polynesian tattoos.

The researchers also highlight that the confirmation of its age places these tools in the era in which the cultures of Polynesia emerged and helps answer the question about the origin of tattoos.

The shape of the intricate, multi-toothed tattooing tools seems to have changed very little in these almost 3,000 years since the traditional equipment to make tattoos now is similar to those used in the past, according to the research published in the Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology.

The presence of what is believed was an ink pot, originally discovered and documented with the tools in 1963 and which is now missing, also makes the find the oldest complete tattooing kit to be discovered anywhere in the world.

The tool kit was unearthed by Jens Poulsen, who was then working for the ANU, but a bushfire in Canberra in 2003 may have burned the ink pot, although the tools were recovered unharmed.

The oldest evidence of tattoos goes back more than 5,000 years, to the time of mummification in Egypt and the so-called Italian ice man Oetzi, although the tools that were used then were never found, according to the statement.

Tattoos are a deeply rooted part of the culture in the Pacific.

Although the Christian missionaries who came to evangelise the area forbade them, people travelled great distances to get their tattoos as they represent important aspects of their beliefs and traditions.

Stay up to date on all the latest World news with The New Indian Express App. Download now
(Get the news that matters from New Indian Express on WhatsApp. Click this link and hit 'Click to Subscribe'. Follow the instructions after that.)


Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp