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Oldest tattoo tools ever found, date back 2,700 years

Oldest tattoo tools know, found at Tongatapu.

Nuku'alofa, TONGA — Through radiocarbon dating, the pictured tattoo tools date back 2,700 years and makes them the oldest tattooing tools ever found.

The tools, which are thought to be made of the bones of birds and possibly also humans, still have tiny bits of ink embedded in them, leaving no doubt to their intended use.

The tiny bone fragments were originally discovered in the 1960s during an excavation on Tongatapu, the heart of the island kingdom of Tonga. At the time it was unclear what their significance might be, but they were kept in safekeeping for scientists to study later.

Decades later, in 2003, a fire decimated the building where many of the found artifacts were held, and it would take another five years before researchers would rediscover them in a different facility. Miraculously, the tiny bone pieces had escaped destruction, and now scientists know exactly what they are.

The study was published in The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology.