Questions for “Tennessee site yields oldest known American tattoo tools”

sharpened turkey leg bones used for tattoos

Two previously unearthed turkey leg bones with sharpened tips (top) are the oldest known tattooing tools. Two other turkey bones from the same site (bottom) may also have been used for tattooing but lack tips for analysis.

A. Deter-Wolf, T.M. Peres and S. Karacic/Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 2021

To accompany “Tennessee site yields oldest known American tattoo tools


Before Reading:

1.  What is a tattoo? Describe how you think tattoos are made.

During Reading:

1.  What were the newfound tattoo tools made from? How old are those tools?

2.  What is the name of the dig site where the tools turned up, and when were they discovered there?

3.  Who has the world’s oldest tattoos? How long ago did that person get his tattoos?

4.  How did Aaron Deter-Wolf and his team conclude that the tools he studied had been used for tattooing?

5.  How did Christian Gates St-Pierre learn what ancient humans’ tattooing tools look like?

6.  Seashells were found at the Fernvale site. What does Deter-Wolf’s team think these might have been used for?

After Reading:

1.  Prehistoric Americans didn’t have shopping malls where they could buy jewelry and other adornments for their bodies. Some, therefore, may have turned to tattoos as a permanent fashion statement. Imagine you’re a prehistoric American looking to adorn your body. Draw a pattern you might choose to have someone tattoo onto you. Also choose what color inks you would use. Remember: This is a design project. No actual tattooing allowed.