The woman’s body was wrapped in a woolen and linen cloth before burial, and her remains were mummified in the desert heat. As deciphered by curators, the tattoo on her thigh, written in ancient Greek, reads Μιχαήλ, transliterated as M-I-X-A-H-A, or Michael. Curators at the museum speculate that the tattoo was a symbol worn for religious and spiritual protection, though they declined to offer additional details.
According to the researchers, “like Greeks and Romans across the Mediterranean, the portion of the population that was literate was fascinated by the shapes of letters and delighted in making designs with letters in names. Hence, we have the odd shape of the tattoo composed of the letters.”
Placing the name of a powerful heavenly protector on one's body by a tattoo or amulet was very common in antiquity, they said. “Christian women who were pregnant often placed amulets with divine or angelic names on bands on their abdomens to insure a safe delivery of their child”. The researchers also claim that “placing the name on the inner thigh, as with this mummy, may have had some meaning for the hopes of childbirth or protection against sexual violation, as in ‘This body is claimed and protected.’ Michael is an obvious identity for a tattoo, as this is the most powerful of angels.”