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Tattoos And The Role They've Played In Human History

1424 words - 6 pages

Tattoos and the Role They've Played in Human History

University of Phoenix

Tattoos and the Role They've Played in Human History
Tattoos are a means of permanently marking the body with coloring by a way of piercing the skin. This form of art articulates the body as well as the psyche. This body modification can be found in every culture around the world, with some of its earliest findings dating back as far as 10,000 BCE (Lineberry, 2007). History shows the symbolisms behind tattoos vary from one society to the next. These markings may be for therapeutic purposes in one part of the world while showing social status in another, and in turn, a way of branding criminals in an ...view middle of the document...

The tattoos were spread largely over their belly, almost as if they were forming a net to help support the growing baby. Figures of the god who was supposed to protect women in labor were tattooed on the tops of their thighs. He was said to look after these women, especially while they were in the act of giving birth. It was as if this marking on these pregnant women would somehow summon this god and he would coach them through the experience (Lineberry, 2007).

With early Polynesian and African cultures alike, mostly everyone was tattooed. Tattoos represented many things in these ancient societies. They were tattooed to show who they were, what they have done in their lives, where they were born, their social standings, what jobs they performed, and even activities they enjoyed. Some had religious or superficial meanings, as well. Warriors were often tattooed with omens that were said to protect them from their enemies, just as the Polynesian fisherman were tattooed to ward off sharks (The Revival of Polynesian Lost Art, 1992-2008). African women believed tattooing would aid in fertility. Markings were added at puberty, after the birth of their first child, and once they had stopped breastfeeding their last child. Tattooing for them, was a way of signifying and highlighting their bravery and endurance as mothers (African Tattoos, 2012).

Contrarily, Japanese culture has quite a different history from the previously discussed societies. They had the idea of using tattooing as a form of branding criminals. One of the more humiliating practices were of that in the Edo period of Japanese history. Criminals of this time specifically, were tattooed on their forehead. The more marks they received, the more crimes they had committed. The marks that were made were strokes of a Chinese character and with each crime following their first, they would receive another mark. In most regions, if the person repeat offends beyond the finishing of the specific symbol, the penalty would be death. This was a form corporal punishment and actually replaced the act of amputation (Blaster, 2013). Tattoos continue to be frowned upon even within the past decade in Japan. It is easy to affiliate tattoos with notorious people in the Japanese society. Japanese mafia members are said to have elaborate full body tattoos, so as to show their ties. It is rumored to be a part of their initiation process, taking years to accomplish (Yakuza Member- Japan, 1996). Many businesses and public places ban tattooed people. Some of those who ban are beaches, bathhouses, and spas especially. Therefore, the social acceptability of tattoos is straining within this culture.

Greek and Roman culture shared in the art of branding criminals with tattoos. The Greeks learned of tattooing from the Persians and tattooed their slaves and criminals as a way of identifying them should they escape. “Plato thought that individuals guilty of sacrilege should be tattooed and banished from the...

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