CAT scans reveal that the Sudanese woman bore the image of the Archangel Michael on her leg.
CAT scans performed by the British Museum revealed that the woman, who lived in Sudan around 700 AD, had the tattoo on her inner thigh (whether it was meant to be seen remains unknown).
The tattoo features a cross on top of a symbol representing the Archangel Michael. It combines in one symbol the letters forming the name Michael (MIXAHΛ) in Greek or Coptic (both languages use a very similar alphabet).
According to the British Museum, the tattoo suggests that the Sudanese woman was of Christian faith, and may have hoped to place herself under the protection of the Archangel – one of the patron saints of Nubia.
The monogram of Saint Michael has been discovered in Nubia, where it was found on the walls of churches and on pottery, but researchers were surprised to find it on a tattoo.
The use of tattoos to indicate one’s faith continues to be popular among Copts today, many of whom have a small cross tattooed inside the wrist.
The mummy was part of an exhibit at the British Museum that showed CAT scan images of mummies found along the Nile. In preparation for the exhibit, which opened in 2014, the mummies were taken at night to hospitals for CAT scans and x-rays, according to a report in the Telegraph.