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Abstract

Tattooing is considered a “visual language,” which inscribes cultural traits on the skin of the owner. This paper tries to explore the importance of tattoos in tribal life as a cultural heritage, by means of a case study in two Santhal villages to find whether there is any age and sex wise perceptual difference regarding tattooing. A focused group interview was conducted in Balipara and Phuldanga villages of the Birbhum District, West Bengal, India to understand the status and significance of tattooing among the Santhals living there. Descriptive analytical research method has been adopted to portray different styles and patterns, materials used to ink the body, and myths and beliefs woven around this art form. Tattooing, as a tribal art, is losing its significance: to keep this tradition alive, the market segment and its appropriate strategies have to be identified in order to favor traditional tribal tattoo designs to prevent their extinction.
Antrocom Online Journal of Anthropology vol. 16. n. 1 (2020) 295-304 – ISSN 1973 – 2880
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Please cite this article as: Payel Ghosh, Tattoo: A Cultural Heritage Antrocom J. of Anthropology 16-1 (2020) pp. 295-304.
Introduction
Tattooing is a process of marking almost indelible designs on the human body by inserting
pigments into the skin. It can be considered as a “visual language” in which culture is inscribed
on the skin of the owner. But for tribal people, it is not only a design or an art form, rather it is a
complete emotion, incorporating myths and beliefs, which have played important and diverse roles
in society since the dawn of humankind (Ferguson-Rayport et al. 1955). In the words of Krutak
(2015:1) “tattooing is integrated into the social fabric of community and religious life, and typically
speaking, it is a cultural, clan or family-mandated ritual that anchors social values on the skin for all
to see”. ough tattooing is conceived as a ritual, its artistic value cannot be neglected. So, it may be
considered as an art form, a painting which uses the human body as canvas, and also a ritual associated
with integrated societal emotions. us, it becomes a part of the cultural heritage of a society. “e
understanding of a cultural heritage includes and highly values its intangible aspects, such as esthetic,
historical, scientic and social values, which in turn serve identity purposes” (Dryjanska 2015: 40).
Tattooing is not all about ink and design: primarily, it is a process of knowledge transmission in the
form of a visual language, where culture is inscribed and preserved in a special way (Krutak 2015).
A tattoo as a piece of art can be considered tangible, but its preservation is dicult, because even an
undeletable tattoo terminates with the mortal body it is attached to. But the knowledge and skills of
Tattoo: A Cultural Heritage
Payel Ghosh1
1Research Scholar, Department of Geography, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi-221005 Uttar Pradesh, India
Tattooing is considered a “visual language,” which inscribes cultural traits on the skin of the
owner. is paper tries to explore the importance of tattoos in tribal life as a cultural heritage,
by means of a case study in two Santhal villages to nd whether there is any age and sex wise
perceptual dierence regarding tattooing. A focused group interview was conducted in Balipara
and Phuldanga villages of the Birbhum District, West Bengal, India to understand the status
and signicance of tattooing among the Santhals living there. Descriptive analytical research
method has been adopted to portray dierent styles and patterns, materials used to ink the
body, and myths and beliefs woven around this art form. Tattooing, as a tribal art, is losing its
signicance: to keep this tradition alive, the market segment and its appropriate strategies have
to be identied in order to favor traditional tribal tattoo designs to prevent their extinction.
Body Painting. Traditional
Art. Santhal Tribe. Social
Ritual. Tattooing
Payel Ghosh / Antrocom Online Journal of Anthropology, vol. 16, n. 1 (2020) 295-304
296
tattoo making are transferred from one generation to another. us, the ‘ritual’ aspect of tattooing can
be considered an intangible aspect of a cultural heritage.
Moreover, tattooing has a long history around the world: “Tattoo by puncture was probably a
deliberate invention of some genius who saw a way of making a magico-religious colouring more
permanent” (Humbly 2009:19). According to Green (2003) as cited by Poli et al. (2012) the oldest
evidence of tattooing was found in 1901, when the “Iceman” mummy was discovered on the Italian-
Austrian border, with tattoos carbon dated back to 5300 years ago. On the other hand, the rst gural
tattoos were found at Gebelein, Egypt on two naturally preserved mummies from 3351 to 3017 BC
(Friedman et al. 2018). Traces of this ritual can be found in Greece, Persia, the Sudan, China, Japan,
as well as in the Polynesian Islands, “where an artistic peak was reached and where the word “tatua,”
meaning artistic, originated” (Ferguson-Rayport et al. 1955: 113). Poli et al. (2012) have identied
some important events throughout the world, which shows the ups and downs of tattooing as a human
practice. By 2000 B.C.E. the process of tattooing was known to Egyptians and Southeast Asians.
And by 1200 B.C.E. probably the rst Polynesian tattoo was drawn. e rst record of a decorative
Japanese tattoo dates in 247 C.E. During the medieval period tattoos faced a drastic decrease in
popularity when it was banned in some parts of the world. In 787 C.E. Pope Adrian banned tattooing
after which it started losing its importance. After a long spell in 1691 William Dampher brought a
heavily tattooed Polynesian to London and reintroduced tattooing to the West. By the seventeenth
century, it had been either lost it meaning “or at least pushed far underground” (Wright 2009: 100).In
1891 Samuel O’Riley invented the rst electric tattoo machine. By 1900s tattooing became common
practice in Western countries. But it surfaced again in a modernized form as a fashion statement when
celebrities and rock stars re-popularized it during the twentieth century (Krutak 2015). So, research
could say that tattoo has dierent connotation on a dierent spatio-temporal scale. Here tattoo both
as a type of painting and as a social ritual has been studied with a special reference to the Santhal tribe
of Eastern India.
Objectives and methods
is paper has a twofold objective: to nd out how tattoos as a cultural heritage is perceived
dierently in dierent groups of people and to study the meaning of tattoos in tribal life with a special
reference to Santhal tribe and its changing pattern. e rst part of the paper deals with the tattoo
in the context of cultural heritage with the help of denitions given by United Nations Educational,
Scientic and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). en to nd out how tattooing represents dierent
cultural aspects the researcher studied ve major uses of tattoos as identied by Krutak (2015), and
found ample of examples of the contradictory motivations behind wearing tattoos within those ve
categories. is part is followed by a case study of the Santhal tribe, one of the most populous tribes
of eastern India who practice tattooing as a social ritual. To understand the status and signicance of
tattooing among the Santhals a focused group discussion was conducted with the tattoo bearers in two
villages namely Balipara and Phuldanga of Birbhum District, West Bengal. e descriptive analytical
method was adopted to report dierent styles and patterns of their tattoos, materials used to ink the
body, and myths and beliefs related to it. Photographs, observation and case studies methods adopted
supplement the strength of the ndings.
Discussion
A tattoo is a special kind of painting whose uniqueness lies in the medium and technique it uses
and the myriad cultural expressions which come out through its display. But tattooing is not only an
Payel Ghosh / Antrocom Online Journal of Anthropology, vol. 16, n. 1 (2020) 295-304 297
expression of the mentality of an individual or a community. So, it can be seen from two perspectives,
rst, it can be seen as a form of painting, hence designs and motifs are the main concern, and second,
the craftmanship of the art and the motivations of the tattooed are considered. According to the
UNESCO’s denition, a tattoo as a body painting that falls in the movable tangible cultural heritage
category (see <www.unesco.org> for more detail). On the other hand, the UNESCO’s Convention
for the Intangible Cultural Heritage identied ve domains in which it is manifested. Tattooing as
an intangible cultural heritage comes under three of these ve domains. ose are: oral tradition and
expressions, social practice and rituals, and traditional craftmanship. Tribal communities do not just
wear tattoos as a motif inscribed on the skin. ere are folklore, myths and beliefs which strongly
recommend to wear a tattoo, though the traditional stories and characters dier from community to
community. Tattooing is also considered a social practice or ritual, where it is mandatory for people
from dierent age or sex group. It is a ritual which has been practiced for centuries and believed it
would be practiced by next generations too. It is weaved in the culture and expresses the uniqueness of
a community. e traditional craftmanship to draw a tattoo on the skin is very special and it is known
by a few. e process diers according to the communities in every step starting from ink making,
to the instruments used to make the impression. ese oral traditions and craftmanship should be
protected and that could be done by growing awareness among young generation so that the ritual
does not fade away with its special stories and art.
3.1 Dierent Uses of Tattoos
Wright (2009) says that in tribal community tattooing is done for a number of reasons, including
denotation of adulthood, fertility or tribal rank. ese are generally non-consensual and indicate
membership in a particular group. On the other hand, in a ‘modern society’ wearing a tattoo is a
fashion statement, which indicates uniqueness and beauty in an individual. Krutak (2015) explores
ve ways in which tattoos, as instruments that transmit culture, has been deployed through time.
ese are identity, adornment, status and position, therapy and apotropaic. Interestingly, it is often
observed that in dierent cultures, though the way of using tattoos is similar, the purposes they serve
are very dierent from each other.
3.1.1 Identity
Identity probably is the most important purpose of wearing tattoos. For most indigenous groups
a tattoo signies attachment to a particular clan: it symbolizes togetherness. Whereas, tattooing
in ‘modern societies’ is a result of ‘individualism’: it denotes uniqueness and helps the tattooed to
stand out of a crowd. For instance, getting tattooed with religious symbols, for example, the date
of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem once was a common practice for Christian pilgrims (Sinclair, 1908).
erefore, a tattoos may be considered as a mark of a personality (Ferguson-Rayport et al. 1955).
3.1.2 Adornment
Similarly, tattoos worn by urban people are mainly to enhance outer beauty. It’s a kind of fashion
statement for young adults. Nowadays, it even became a part of makeup. Eyeliner and eyebrows are
being tattooed to make them permanent. On the other hand, there are tribes like the Apatanis of
Arunachal Pradesh, India who tattoo their women to make them unattractive so that other rival tribes
do not abduct the prettiest ones (Baruah 2011).
3.1.3 Status and Position
In many indigenous groups tattoos advertise the social position and status of an individual. Tattoos
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298
cannot be worn by anyone, at any time or on any part of the body. Ascribing a member a special
status, such as, being adult, being eligible for marriage, being married etc., involves a ritual. For
instance, the married women of the Singpho tribe of North-eastern India were tattooed on both legs
from the ankle to the knee, men could wear tattoo on their limbs, while unmarried people were not
allowed to wear a tattoo (Baruah 2011). In some cases, tattoos are worn by people with special powers
or special status like priests or the head of a clan. As Raveendran (2017) reported in e Hindu Daily,
the Konyaks ‘head-hunters’ would wear tattoos on dierent parts of their bodies to display courage
and honor chopping someone’s head. us, tattooing is also associated with honor and pride. But
there was a totally dierent story of tattooing linked with disrespect and taboos. Even in the early
1900s Western society, tattooed people were thought to be pimps, homosexuals and neuropsychiatric
disables (Ferguson-Rayport et al. 1955). In the colonial India prisoners were forcefully tattooed as a
method of identication. Criminals were often tattooed with the word “thug” on their forehead.
3.1.4 erapy
Tattoos are often believed to have healing powers used as a substitute of acupuncture. Tattooing, for
some culture is an alternative medical treatment which is either magico-religious or pseudoscientic.
e ‘iceman’ mummy discussed before also had therapeutic tattoos. At present this type of tattoos are
used by the Kayan tribe of Myanmar. In contrast, present day biological research shows that the ink
used during tattooing, when exposed to sunlight, damages skin cells. Puncturing of epidermis gives
way to bacteria and viruses which cause skin infections. Tattooing, without proper hygiene can lead to
serious diseases like, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis or even HIV/AIDS (Poli et al. 2012).
3.1.5 Apotropaic
Tattooing in most traditional societies has been a custom often attributed to supernatural entities.
For some tribal community it is a way to allure good luck by keeping evil spirits away. For example,
Sinclair (1908:365) wrote: “If the Dakota believed that the ghosts of none of them could travel the ghost
road in safety unless they had a tattoo device on their forehead or wrist, it is certain that all Dakota had
this mark” . Some people mimic an evil spirit by wearing tattoos similar to those worn by the spirit itself.
“So that tattooed spirits see the tattooed human as a fellow spirit and not as a prey” (Krutak 2015:4).
us, tattooing being an intangible aspect of cultural heritage, serves multiple purposes in dierent
societies. is is an age-old practice, with great stories and art skills handed down from one generation
to another with continuous modications. Perception towards tattoos changes cross-culturally through
time. A case study of the Santhal tribe helps understand how a ‘ritual’ like tattooing changes over time
in an indigenous society.
3.2 A Case Study of Santhal Tribe
e Santhal tribe is one of the oldest tribes of Indian subcontinent and belongs to the Proto-
Australoid racial group. According to the Census of India 2011, it is the country’s third largest tribal
group with 7.4 million population, concentrated mainly in the states of Jharkhand, Bihar, West
Bengal, Orissa and Assam. ey are also found in some parts of Bangladesh and Nepal. e main
occupation is agriculture, though hunting is practiced during festivals. e characteristics of Santhal
society is well depicted through their festivals, marriage alliances, annual hunts, economic activities
and religious practices (Gogna 2011). Sarnaism is the traditional religion, and they worship several
‘bongas’ (spirits). At present they also worship Hindu Gods and Goddesses, while many of them are
converted to Christianity. Superstitions, witchcraft, thought of afterlife strongly inuence their social
beliefs.
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3.2.1 Tattoo as Body Art
Tattoo is known as ‘Khuda’ in Santhali language, meaning ‘Making Impression’. Mainly are worn
by Santhal women, though men also have a kind of body modication known as ‘sikka’, i.e. ‘coin’.
ese are coin-sized burn marks usually found on the upper side of left hand (Fig. 1). Some common
tattoos of the Santhals are:
• the Nekkii Khuda: Nekkii means ‘wooden comb’ in Santhali (Fig. 2).
• the Had Khuda: Santhals called themselves Had/ Hor. Having this tattoo on the body implies
that the owner belongs to the Santhal community 1 (Fig. 3).
• the Kadam Baha: Baha means ower in Santhali, and the kadam is a common ower found
locally. is tattoo represents the Kadam ower (Fig. 4).
• the Pan Sakam: it implies the leaf of beetle nut (Fig. 5):
• the Miru Khuda: Miru means Sun. e Santhals worship sun as one of the most powerful
bongas (Fig. 6).
• the Sim Kata: Sim means hen and kata means its leg. e tattoo looks like the legs of a chicken
(Fig. 7)
.
ese common designs with a particular name were observed and photographed during the eld
survey, but why these particular designs are being tattooed again and again is not known, at least to
the people with whom the author has interacted. e main reason of the ignorance might be because
tattooing is perceived as a ritual by the community and the main focus is to gain the virtue of wearing
it. at is why the pattern to be inked is a matter of choice.
3.2.2 Tattoo as Craftmanship
Tattoos are drawn in the winter season by the ‘Khudnis’, mainly referred to the womenfolk of a
particular group of people, who do not belong to the Santhal tribe; most probably they are nomads
and believer of Islam. e process of making a tattoo on one’s skin is very painful. Tattoos are drawn
by injecting pigments into the skin with the help of a bunch of very ne needles. Traditionally, the
pigment is made from the carbon remains on the back side of the cooking utensils. Such carbon
is generally mixed with water to make the ink to be inserted into the skin. Sometimes lactating
‘Khudnis’ use their breast milk instead of water. e pigment is primarily black but after applying it
in the skin it becomes greenish.
3.2.3 Tattoo as Ritual
In the Santhal community a tattoo is mainly used to show the identity and social status of a
person, especially women. Tattoos are inscribed by dierent natural objects. And these are mainly
painted on both hands, along the neck, shoulder and outer part of the palms. Unmarried girls usually
have tattoos on their right hand whereas married women have tattoos on left hand. But these rules are
not strictly maintained. In March 2019, during the informal interaction about forty Santhal people
were interviewed (individually and through focused group discussions) to know the importance of
tattooing in their lives. According to the elderly people of this tribe, ritual of tattooing comes from
the belief that nothing could be taken from the material world once death happens, hence tattoos or
body marks are the only things which could help survive in afterlife. Because Santhali myth says that
a person without a tattoo would be eaten up by insects after death (Kislaya 2013).
1 e ‘Nekki’ and ‘Had’ are the most common designs.
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3.2.4 Changing Pattern of Tattooing
With modernization, the concept of tattooing is changing rapidly in the Santhal community. e
observation is that perception in the Santhal society regarding tattoos diers according to sex and age.
Globalization connects tribal communities with the outer world and accelerates cultural change. Yet,
“for some reason the disruptions created in rapid culture change hit the men more directly, leaving the
women less changed and less anxious” (Spindler and Spindler 1958: 217). us, traditional tattooing,
both process and motifs, is more common among women, while men choose ‘modern’ designs over
traditional ones. Similarly, formal education teaches that there is nothing like afterlife at all. So, young
adults are losing interest in traditional tattooing; they are either ignoring tattoos or making very tiny
ones just to full a mandatory social norm (see Figure 8). According to Kislaya (2013) youngsters are
reluctant to get a tattoo and those who got one wish to remove it. On the other hand, elderly people
still think tattooing is a mandatory part of life and traditional motifs and stories are important for
them. Gradually, a sense of inferiority is being associated with tattooing. is problem is common
not only among the Santhals, but also among other Indian tribal groups. For instance, college-going
girls of the Oraon tribe in Ranchi, Jharkhand, want their tattoos removed because they think having a
tattoo in an exposed part of the body is embarrassing and people would treat them dierently (Kislaya
2013).
Contrary to this, having a tattoo on one’s body is fashionable for many. In India, tattoo parlors or
tattoo studios are mushrooming everywhere. Urban citizens are spending huge sums of money to get
a pattern, designed thousands of miles away, to be inked on their bodies. On the other hand, people
are being ignorant about ancient tattooing methods and motifs associated to their own culture. at
is why the conservation of this ‘art’ or ‘custom’ is needed. Yet, preserving tattoos is not an easy task.
What to preserve, the designs, the mythological tales regarding tattoo or the instruments, is a big
question. However, it is well known that goods and services go better in a market driven economy.
Youngsters have a typical choice to decorate themselves. us, as to tattoos, the target may be a
segment of the population who are prospective consumers. To popularize positively young people,
psychological statements may be made to circulate through dierent electronic and print media.
In market places, aggressive demonstrations may be made emphasizing the price, package, place,
population and performance. Promoting traditional tattoos in a modern way of life can make them
gain back their popularity. A ray of hope can be seen after the report by Das (2012) in Times of India
daily, about a Manipuri artist, who has set a school where he teaches the ancient practice of tattooing
on the body to both experts and as well as novices. Santhali tattoo designs too can be promoted in a
similar way. Researchers can denitely think of a model tattoo parlor, where people would get a tribal
motif inked on their bodies with modern tattoo machines, while witnessing the ancient tools of tattoo
drawing exhibited in the parlor and listening about the stories and myths about getting a tattoo a
particular tribe once believed.
Conclusion
Tattoo culture in India has had its origin since immemorial time. As a cultural practice it must have
evolved as an ethnic marker through cultural contacts among the members of a community. Over
time this cultural heritage experienced a lot of ups and downs. Being an intangible cultural heritage,
it is considered an animated part of tribal culture. On cross cultural comparison, it is ascertained
that this ancient practice is not just an art, but an important custom of tribes with myths and stories
associated with it. Perception regarding tattooing reveals a huge variation among dierent cultures
at dierent times. It is a mandatory custom for some societies, while for some it is prohibited. Some
Payel Ghosh / Antrocom Online Journal of Anthropology, vol. 16, n. 1 (2020) 295-304 301
use it for body beautication, some for safety purposes because of its magical tenets. Some believe it
has health benets, while others consider it the cause of skin diseases. However, among many tribes,
despite having a lot of taboos, tattoos are inseparable cultural traits. To preserve this custom one has
to understand tribal cultures, which includes worldview, social norms, beliefs and a lot more things
about their life. Tattooing has two broader forms. e traditional one with age old tools, strongly
believed tales and recurring designs, mainly associated with a tribal society. And the modern one
with advanced less painful output through machineries with colorful artistic patterns and a sense of
fashion, initially believed to be associated with culture of the Hippies. e former one is dying while
the latter one is burgeoning day by day. To retain both forms, a link between these two is needed. In
contemporary modern society this vanishing practice can revive a new life if traditional tattooing is
made a market-driven service of body care.
References
Baruah, S. (2011). ‘Tattoos: A tribal heritage’, Times of India, 19 February. <https://timesondia.indiatimes.com>
(Retrieved on 29/08/2018).
Das, G. (2012). ‘Manipur Artist Open Tattoo School in City to Promote Tribal Body Art’, Times of India, 8 December.
<https://timesondia.indiatimes.com> (Retrieved on 03/07/2018).
Dryjanska, L. (2015). “A social psychological approach to cultural heritage: memories of the elderly inhabitants of Rome”.
Journal of Heritage Tourism, 10(1): 38-56.
Ferguson-Rayport, S. M., Grith, R. M. and Straus, E. W. (1955). “e psychiatric signicance of tattoos”. e Psychiatric
Quarterly, 29(1-4):112-131.
Friedman et al. (2018). “Natural mummies from predynastic Egypt reveal the world’s earliest gural tattoos”. Journal of
Archaeological Science, 92:116-125.
Gogna, S. B. (2011). “Art of Jadupata among Santhals: A socio cultural perspective”. Ph.D. Diss., V. B. S. Purvanchal
University.
Kislaya, K. (2013). “Young Tribals Want Tattoos Erased”, Times of India, 15 January. <https://timesondia.indiatimes.
com> (Retrieved on 29/08/2018).
Krutak, L. (2015). “e cultural heritage of tattooing: A brief history”. In J. Serup, N. Kluger and W. Bäumler (eds.),
Tattooed Skin and Health, pp. 1-5. Basel: Karger Publishers.
Poli, D. B., Fleenor, M. and Rearick, M. (2012). “Drawing on Popular Culture: Using Tattooing to Introduce Biological
Concepts”. e American Biology Teacher, 74(6):381-385.
Raveendran, A. (2017). “Chronicling the Konyaks”, e Hindu, 04 November. <https://www.thehindu.com> (Retrieved
on 18/07/2018).
Sinclair, A. T. (1908). “Tattooing- Oriental and Gypsy”. American Anthropologist, 10(3): 361-386.
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Images
1. ‘Sikka’, traditional body mark worn by male members of Santhal tribe
Figure 2. ‘Nekki Khuda Figure 3. ‘Had/Hor Khuda
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Figure 4. ‘Kadam Baha Khuda
Figure 5. ‘Paan Sakam Khuda Figure 6. ‘Miru Khuda
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304
Figure 7. ‘Sim Kata Khuda
Figure 8. Smaller version of ‘Miru Khuda’ worn by school going girls
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... They are also found in other parts of the Indian states, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal, and some portions of Bangladesh and Nepal. Their traditional occupation is hunting-gathering and agriculture, and their traditional religion is Satanism, where they worship spirits called Bonga in the Santhali language (Ghosh, 2020). ...
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... Thus, like exercising, we pay a lot of money to engage in this stressor and generally hope to be more fit as a result (e.g., healthier or more attractive). In fact, some scholars have long indicated that tattoos have health benefits, though most suggest these benefits come through tattooing as means of coping with trauma or of altering identity (Ghosh, 2020;Hambly, 2009;Krutak, 2013;Tuttle & Vale, 1989). No one has explored the link between psychology and physiology that may be critical to what Sterling and Eyer (1988) term "allostatic accommodation." ...
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Objective Though it injures the body in many ways, tattooing may also prepare it for later dermal stress through psychoneuroimmunological means.Methods To test this, we examined salivary endocrine (cortisol), immune (secretory immunoglobulin A), and inflammatory (C-reactive protein) responses to receiving a new tattoo relative to previous tattoo experience among 48 adults attending a tattoo festival.ResultsWe found no effect of previous tattoo experience on pre-posttest cortisol but a significant main effect of extent of previous tattoo experience on pre-posttest cortisol and secretory immunoglobulin A and significant extent of body-by-hour tattooed interaction effect on C-reactive protein.Conclusions These findings suggest that the positive psychological evaluation of tattooing as eustress may contribute to biochemical adaptation through tattooing.
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For millennia, peoples around the world have tattooed human skin to communicate various ontological, psychosocial, and sociocultural concepts encompassing beauty, cultural identity, status and position, medicine, and supernatural protection. As a system of knowledge transmission, tattooing has been and continues to be a visual language of the skin whereby culture is inscribed, experienced, and preserved in a myriad of specific ways. If we are to fully comprehend the meanings that tattoos have carried across human history and into the present, then it would be useful to explore some of the ways tattoos, as instruments that transmit culture, have been deployed cross-culturally through time. © 2015 S. Karger AG, Basel.
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Abstract: Collaboration between two biologists and a physicist resulted in the example of tattooing being used as a motivator to support discussion across several scientific fields (cell biology, microbiology, human health, and physics). Although often viewed as self-destructive and rebellious in the Western world, tattooing has a deep and rich history full of meaning, for example as a rite of passage. Our main objective was to use a culturally relevant topic as a way to increase student engagement and learning while linking biological phenomena and physics. We describe this experience and provide a brief background on how the art and history of tattooing can aid in teaching young biologists.
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The application of tattoos to the human body has enjoyed a long and diverse history in many ancient cultures. At present, the oldest surviving examples are the mainly geometric tattoos on the individual known as Ötzi, dating to the late 4th millennium BCE, whose skin was preserved by the ice of the Tyrolean Alps. In the Egyptian Nile valley, the arid climate has also promoted extensive soft tissue preservation. Here we report on the tattoos found during the examination of two of the best preserved naturally mummified bodies from Egypt's Predynastic (c. 4000-3100 BCE) period, making them the earliest extant examples from the Nile Valley. Figural tattoos that mirror motifs found in Predynastic art were observed on the right arm of one male and the right arm and shoulder of one female, demonstrating conclusively that tattooing was practiced in prehistoric Egypt. These findings overturn the circumstantial evidence of the artistic record that previously suggested only females were tattooed for fertility or even erotic reasons. Radiocarbon testing and datable iconographic parallels for the motifs indicate that these tattooed individuals are nearly contemporaneous with the Iceman, positioning them amongst the bearers of some of the oldest preserved tattoos in the world. At over five thousand years of age, they push back the evidence for tattooing in Africa by a millennium and provide new insights into the range of potential uses of tattoos in pre-literate societies by both sexes, revealing new contexts for exploring the visual language of prehistoric times.
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Elderly inhabitants' memories can be a valuable source of information about the intangible aspects of cultural heritage of interest to tourists. Using the theory of social representations, this research project focuses on the urban area of the former 17th Municipality of Rome (located on the right riverbank of the Tiber River and including the neighborhoods of Prati and Borgo close to the Vatican City). All three older people's centers of the municipality have participated on a voluntary basis. The total of 64 persons provided demographic information, took tests assessing cognitive skills and memory, attended focus groups and participated in in-depth interviews in order to produce a documentary for tourists. As a result, the four most significant social representations of the cultural heritage of the former 17th Municipality of Rome have been identified and described in relation to the predominant emotions evoked. The final product consists of a documentary that includes selected interviews with the elderly inhabitants, insights from an archeologist and art historian, as well as local administration and authorities, in order to enrich tourist experience. Practical implications of the research project are discussed in relation to urban tourism.
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This paper investigates the describing, dissemination and archiving of records, which have previously not been well described by archives. It asks if new methods of accessing the archive may be used to improve understandings of such records. Specifically, this paper will investigate the records created about tattoos in the nineteenth century following the European exploration of Polynesia, and the transmission of tattoos to the West. The ways in which this indigenous cultural practice was interpreted and recorded are discussed with reference to the records created. Tattoos are inherently physical records, which do not survive beyond the lifespan of their owner. The archiving process for tattoos has thus relied on preserving representations of the tattoo. This paper will ask what these representations of tattoos actually provide evidence of and will use two case studies to examine how records about tattoos have been archived. Finally, it is suggested that a more holistic understanding of tattooing records may be achieved through new ways of describing and classifying records, such as folksonomy.
Tattoos: A tribal heritage', Times of India
  • S Baruah
Baruah, S. (2011). 'Tattoos: A tribal heritage', Times of India, 19 February. <https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com> (Retrieved on 29/08/2018).
Manipur Artist Open Tattoo School in City to Promote Tribal Body Art', Times of India
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Das, G. (2012). 'Manipur Artist Open Tattoo School in City to Promote Tribal Body Art', Times of India, 8 December. <https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com> (Retrieved on 03/07/2018).
Art of Jadupata among Santhals: A socio cultural perspective
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