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The History Of Tattoos Before 1500

1807 words - 7 pages

Tattoos are a popular, common, and moderately well accepted form of art and self-expression in modern society. Tattooing has been practiced among people for an amazingly extended amount of time; archaeologists have found evidence of tattoos that dates as far back as 15,000BC. Tattoos have served many functions throughout history and in different cultures. They have been used as decoration, for punitive and religious purposes, to mark whom a slave's owner was, as well as to indicate a person's identity, occupation, and status.Archeologists have found evidence of tattoos all over the world, and some of their finds date back to 15,000BC. In France, masked figures in the rock engraving of La Madeline show signs of body painting and possibly tattoos, this engraving dates back to about 15,000BC. In the islands of Tonga, bone chisels, used for tattooing, were found and they date back to about 2,000BC. In Japan, clay figures with facial masks were found and they are believed to depict tattoos, these figures date to about 5,000BC. Definite, solid physical evidence proving the use of tattoos in ancient history was discovered in September 1991 with the finding of the Ice Man in Alto Adige; he is dated back to about 3300BC. The Ice Man had lines tattooed on his back and legs. Many mummies that were excavated in Egypt and date to about 2,000BC have tattoos. Most of these tattoos consisted of a series of line and dots, of blue-black color, and they were usually found on women. In the 1950s a Scythian warrior was found in Siberia, he had elaborate tattoos of mythological animals and he was dated to about 500BC. There is definite physical evidence to prove that people from all different locations and cultures have been tattooing since ancient times. Considering that tattoos were being used in many different cultures, it is understandable that they carried different connotations, and were used for different purposes.For the Greeks, the Romans, and other Mediterranean cultures tattooing was usually carried a bad stigma and was reserved for criminals, slaves, and prisoners of war. Mark Gustafson discusses the tattooing of prisoners of war. "...They marked some Thebans with the name or sign of Xerxes. Other sources indicate that it was customary for prisoners of war to be marked with the sign of their captors; for example Athenians would mark their prisoners with an owl." Tattoos were also used, as punishment for criminals, in this capacity they were quite effective considering that the wearer of the tattoo suffered the humiliation and exclusion of having everyone they met know of the crime they committed, because the crime was placed on their face for everyone to see. Gustafson elaborates, "...Those in power were well aware that the body can function as a permanently running advertisement of one's guilt and subjugation. Given the heavy yoke of a tattoo those released from their sentences and allowed to return home could never completely resume normal life."...

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