History : Jul-Aug 2019
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC HISTORY 5 of the tool and tested them. They established that the wear patterns on the used replicas matched those on the original. They ran the artifact through a series of microscopy and X-ray analyses, revealing pigment on the cactus spines. The team dated the tool to be- tween a.d. 79 and 130, predat- ing the previous oldest tattoo implement found in the region by nearly a millennium. Patterns of History Archaeologists estimate that the Turkey Pen site was occu- pied by the Ancestral Puebloan civilization between 50 b.c. and a.d. 200, during the Bas- ketmaker II period. Some pieces of rock art from this era depict figures with body adornment, which some spec- ulate are tattoos. This tool is the first solid evidence that Ancestral Puebloan peoples practiced tattooing. The discovery has major implications for the under- standing of Ancestral Pueb- loan practices, as well as for the wider meanings of tattooing. Elsewhere in the world, tattoo- ing is associated with agricul- ture and increases in popula- tion. The Ancestral Puebloans were experiencing such a rise at the time the tool was made, leading the team to speculate that tattoos strengthened a sense of social identity in a rapidly changing world. HOT FOOD AND HIGH DWELLINGS THE ANCESTRAL PUEBLOANS who fashioned the tat- too tool were part of the Basketmaker II culture. Their artifacts, dwellings, and artworks have been found across the American Southwest in Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. Lasting about a millen- nium, from 500 b.c. to a.d. 500, the Basketmaker II period coincides with the transition to agriculture. The period gets its name from the abundance of bas- kets found at archaeological sites. These skillfully woven baskets were often sealed with pine pitch, making them watertight. The baskets could be used in food preparation by placing fire-warmed stones inside to heat food. Later, Ancestral Puebloan peo- ples began living in cliff dwellings, which still dot the landscape throughout the Southwest. while excavating the Turkey Pen site near what today is Bears Ears National Monu- ment in Utah. Found among artifacts in a midden (an an- cient trash heap,) the little bundle of spines was boxed up and stored at Washington State University (WSU). It took more than 40 years for scholars to identi- fy the find. In 2017 Andrew Gillreath-Brown, a WSU an- thropology doctoral candi- date, came across the artifact and thought he knew what it might be. He showed it to Aaron Deter-Wolf, an expert on ancient tattooing practices. In the year that followed, the pair made exact replicas BRIDGEMANGETTY COLORFUL BASKETS (RIGHT) ARE TYPICAL OF THOSE MADE BY THE BASKETMAKER II CULTURE. A CLIFF DWELLING NEAR BEARS EARS NATIONAL MONUMENT, UTAH (BELOW), IS NAMED “HOUSE ON FIRE,” FOR ITS VIBRANT ROCK FORMATIONS. IT WAS SETTLED CIRCA A.D. 750.