When it comes to choosing a tattoo, it’s often important to find something symbolic that has a deeper meaning, and that is one of the main reasons why Egyptian tattoos are so popular.
There are many different types of ancient Egypt tattoo featuring classic symbolism or hieroglyphics from the days of the Pharaohs, so there’s sure to be an Egyptian tattoo symbol that is perfect for you.
Whether you’re looking for something impressive for a back piece or whole sleeve, or whether you’re interested in choosing something small for an ankle, wrist or behind the ear, there are Egyptian tattoo designs that will definitely fit the bill.
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History of Egyptian tattoos
The ancient Egyptians are well-known to have created stylized and symbolic artworks on their tombs and monuments, however, they’re also now known to be some of the earliest recorded tattoo artists in history.
For more than 4000 years, the Ancient Egyptians tattooed geometric patterns and images on each other’s bodies.
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The earliest Egyptian style tattoos date back to around 2000BC, about the same time that the pyramids were under construction.
Mummies from this era have now been found that still have their tattoos visible.
Tattoos are thought to have had a major role to play in Ancient Egyptian culture.
For example, three female mummies dating back to this period had tattoos adorning their pelvises, thighs, and stomachs.
Due to the location of those tattoos, it is suspected that they had been created to ask for the blessing and protection of the gods in pregnancy and labor.
Stone figurines have also been found that appear to have tattoos on their bodies.
As these were found inside tombs belonging to powerful figures in history, it’s believed that tattooing often occurred in higher classes of society.
It’s also thought that most people who wore tattoos were female, with one notable example being a priestess who had geometric tattoos across her body.
Popular Egyptian Tattoo symbols (and what they mean)
Most tattoos during the times of the ancients were simple and geometric in design using diamond shapes and dotted lines. They were also dark blue or black in color.
Over time, these patterns became increasingly complex and began to incorporate images of gods and animals.
For example, the god Bes is sometimes seen tattooed on women’s thighs as a way of easing the pain of childbirth.
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Tattoos were probably viewed as a form of permanent amulet that was a tribute to a favorite goddess or god.
Today, Egyptian themed tattoos and meanings have morphed and changed over time. Today, the beautiful storytelling artworks that were created by the ancient Egyptians are now often depicted in tattoo form on tattoo lovers’ bodies.
Quite frequently, an Egyptian god tattoo will be seen alongside an Egyptian hieroglyphic tattoo, mixing styles, patterns and symbols to dramatic effect.
If you’re interested in Egyptian themed tattoos, you’ll be spoiled for choice as there are plenty of popular historical Egyptian subjects that are often seen in modern representations of body art.
Here are some popular Egyptian tattoo meanings and images that are commonly asked for in tattoo parlors all over the world.
Ankh – A Popular Symbol
The ankh tattoo is one of the most recognizable symbols of ancient Egypt. Representing the sun, giving to the land all the energy and resources that it needs to thrive, this symbol also describes a connection between men and women and may even represent the key to life after death.
It is sometimes known as the key of life, representing eternity and love, and can often be found alongside images of the Eye of Horus, which we’ll look at later.
The ankh appears frequently in Egyptian paintings and on tomb art, frequently along with a deity or two. Many ancient Egyptians would actually carry or wear an ankh as a good luck charm.
Interestingly, mirrors were also often made in the shape of ankh – perhaps a nod to looking through to another world?
Ankh tattoos are complex, however, they can be extremely symbolic, and this makes them a neat addition to Egyptian tribal tattoos since they can be sized up or down to suit your design.
Pharoah Tattoo – The Mark Of A King
An Egyptian king tattoo depicts a pharaoh since the pharaoh was the ruler of ancient Egypt, similar to one of today’s modern kings but considerably more powerful.
In fact, the Pharoah in ancient times wasn’t only the ruler of the people, he was also seen as a god on Earth.
The pharaoh tattoo meaning is ultimate and supreme authority and power, indicating that the wearer is strong, powerful and is confident of their own abilities, being an excellent leader over others.
Ra Or Horus – An Egyptian Gods Tattoo
The Eye of Ra and its partner, the Eye of Horus are two more very popular and famous ancient Egyptian symbols which are known and recognized all over the world.
Still often seen in books and movies, they are also popular tattoo symbols thanks to their fascinating cultural heritage.
Horus was the god of the sky, and the Eye of Horus tattoo is said to depict his left eye which gave the gift of life.
Meanwhile, the Eye of Ra also once belonged to Horus. It was lost during a battle but it was later found and became the Eye of Ra.
Egyptians believed the eye was all-seeing and could see all the things destined to happen to Egypt’s people. When found as a tattoo, it holds the meaning of strength, power, and protection. It also serves as an “eternal watcher”.
Anubis was the ancient Egyptian god of afterlife and the dead. In Egyptian myths, Anubis was a mysterious and enigmatic god who was charged with protecting people as they headed on to their afterlife.
Known as the jackal god, his upper body was the head of a jackal while his lower body was human in appearance. He can be seen depicted in artwork as either standing or sitting.
As the Underworld god, part of his job was to weigh the hearts of the deceased If their heart was the right weight the individual would make it to the afterlife.
When depicted in tattoo form, it’s thought that Anubis tattoos have several meanings. It could mean embarking on a new life or a new path, or it could mean that the wearer believes they have someone in the afterlife who is watching over them.
Whenever anyone thinks about Ancient Egypt, they will probably think about the pyramids and the Sphinx. In fact, the Sphinx is iconic and is a recognizable symbol of ancient Egypt known all over the world.
The mythical Sphinx is a unique creature with a lion’s body and a human female’s head. Known for its treacherousness and merciless nature, the Sphinx would ask riddles and then cast those who were unable to answer it to be eaten by ferocious beasts.
It may be a scary symbol, but it’s popular with both women and men as part of an Egyptian themed tattoo. It is a symbol that represents a love of danger and also of gambling, making it a great choice to express the wearer’s inner personality.
Ancient Hieroglyphics – A Decorative Tattoo
If you’re keen to get an Egyptian tattoo but want complete freedom to truly express your own message, the best way to do it is to use hieroglyphics – the ancient Egyptian form of writing.
Hieroglyphics are one of the very oldest systems of writing to be found anywhere in the world, but they aren’t just meaningful, they’re also aesthetically pleasing and have a mysterious air that’s hard to beat.
Even your name spelled out in hieroglyphics makes a fascinating and beautiful tattoo.
There is no shortage of personalized messages you could create using hieroglyphic symbols. Whether you choose to use a logogram or a phonetic interpretation, there’s a world of possibilities open to you.
Phonetic hieroglyphics represent the alphabet although there are no vowels. Meanwhile, logographic hieroglyphics (or ideograms) use a single symbol to represent one whole word.
Hieroglyphic tattoos can be written right to left, left to right, or vertically as long as they face the direction you wish them to be read in.
There are some popular symbols that can be chosen to represent a single whole word and which look wonderful either in plain black or in color. They can also be sized up or down to suit the area that you wish to be tattooed.
For example, you can choose the symbol that represents a man, a woman or a child – ideal if you wish to commemorate an important family member.
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Whether you’re a fan of symbolism, history or just want a beautiful and meaningful tattoo, hieroglyphics are a great choice when it comes to getting body art.
You can pair up your own choice of ideograms or phonetic hieroglyphics to express your own thoughts or to spell a word that is important to you.