Bulgarian Museums Reveal Tattoos of Ancient Thracian Women, Make Them Commercially Available

These are the most common Ancient Thracian female tattoo images found on archaeological artifacts in Bulgaria. Photo: National Institute and Museum of Archaeology / Burgas Regional Museum of History

These are the most common Ancient Thracian female tattoo images found on archaeological artifacts in Bulgaria. Photo: National Institute and Museum of Archaeology / Burgas Regional Museum of History

Temporary tattoos replicating original tattoos that Ancient Thracian women wore some couple of thousand years ago have been revealed and made commercially available by some Bulgarian archaeological museums.

Specific tattoos worn by the women of Ancient Thrace have been revealed based on images from archaeological artifacts by the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia as part of its exhibition entitled “A Mirror of Time: Female Beauty over the Centuries".

As part of the highly intriguing exhibition, the museum experts from the National Institute created a collection of temporary tattoos with the most typical motifs of the tattoos of the Ancient Thracian women.

The Ancient Thracian female tattoos have now been made commercially available in the form of temporary tattoos sold for only BGN 2 (app. EUR 1), the Burgas Regional Museum of History has announced.

The Museum describes the typical motifs of the tattoos worn by the women of Ancient Thrace as “stylish".

“The sophisticated earrings, rings, and necklaces of the Ancient Thracian women stun with their lavishness and decorations but these were not the only impressive part of their attire," says the Burgas Museum.

It adds that very often Ancient Greek artists who painted ancient ceramic vessels presented an apparently very important element of the Thracian women’s appearance, with their tattoos covering their entire legs, hands, and neck.

“The meaning of tattoos for the Ancient Thracians had to do with their cult (i.e. religious) practices for connecting with superhuman forces. The most common tattoo motifs for them were stripes with straight and skewed lines, wave and zigzag motifs, points, rosettes, and animal silhouettes. Parallel lines are often combined with animal silhouettes – snakes, does, or elk," the Museum explains.

“The easy to get tattoos are a wonderful accessory for summer events and festivals. They are moistened and then stamped on the skin, and can last for days," it adds.

These are the most common motifs found in the Ancient Thracian female tattoos. Photo: National Institute and Museum of Archaeology / Burgas Regional Museum of History

These are the most common motifs found in the Ancient Thracian female tattoos. Photo: National Institute and Museum of Archaeology / Burgas Regional Museum of History

The “Mirror of Time" exhibit was opened at the end of May 2016, and will be on display at the main building of the National Museum of Archaeology in downtown Sofia until September 25, 2016.

It features a total of 170 archaeological artifacts from all major historical periods since the 8th century BC, including both female adornments, and depictions of women on various kinds of vessels. One of the most interesting items on display is a 2,500-year-old Ancient Thracian toiletries box consisting of a gold-coated silver shell.

The Burgas region and the Burgas Regional Museum of History are represented in the exhibit with gold jewels of a Thracian woman who lived in ancient Messembria (today’s Black Sea resort of Nessebar) in the early 3rd century BC.

For more detailed information about the exhibition “A Mirror of Time: Female Beauty over the Centuries" view the full table of contents (PDF) of its official catalog in Bulgarian and English.

A children’s book on the clothing of Ancient Thracian women has also been published based on the exhibition.

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A poster on the tattoos of Ancient Thracian women. Photo: National Institute and Museum of Archaeology / Burgas Regional Museum of History

A poster on the tattoos of Ancient Thracian women. Photo: National Institute and Museum of Archaeology / Burgas Regional Museum of History

Commercially available temporary tattoos modeled after the tattoos of the Ancient Thracian women. Photos: Burgas Regional Museum of History

Commercially available temporary tattoos modeled after the tattoos of the Ancient Thracian women. Photos: Burgas Regional Museum of History

Thracian female tattoos 5 Background Infonotes:

The Ancient Thracians were an ethno-cultural group of Indo-European tribes inhabiting much of Southeast Europe from about the middle of the second millennium BC to about the 6th century AD on the territory of modern-day Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Greece, Turkey, Macedonia, Serbia.