Tattoos: The Human Body as a Work of Art
of rituals, hymns, and mythological stories), help empower the experience
of the tattooed individual.
Tattoos have also been used as medicinal aides
by healers and shamans, throughout thousands of years. This type of
treatment combined philosophical ideas with real actions, among them,
tattooing the body. The ancient therapeutic tattoo functioned as a form
of “acupuncture”, and was used to alleviate certain pathological diseases,
which were often ascribed to the evil spirits that trouble man.
Art anthropologist Ellen Dissanayake claims that the drive to create
constitutes the very foundation of the Homos-Sapiens. In light of this
drive, she coined the term “
According to Dissanayake,
in indigenous cultures, art belongs not only to talented individuals, but
extends also to each and every member of the community. Thus, music,
dance, costumes, drawing, and tattoos, belong to the entire group. In the
same vein, the community defined and fashioned its world as a spectacular
performance in which each artwork is equivocal – both functional and
divine. Thus, since the art that was drawn on its surface underscored its
status as a divine vessel, we may understand the tattooed body as a link
between the physical and the metaphysical.
Material evidence of ancient tattooing customs have been uncovered
across the world. Archeological findings, such as, tattooed human
remains, artistic descriptions, and tattooing tools uncover the antiquity
of this custom.
The earliest tattooed human body was found in 1991 in the Ötztal
Alps – hence its nickname “Ötzi the Iceman”. This is the oldest known
human being, who lived around 3,300 BC.
His sophisticated clothes, and
the valuable possessions found next to him, indicate that he was of high
social status. His well-preserved body had sixty one tattoos. These tattoos
served probably a medicinal purpose, rather a decorative or symbolic
one – an amazing discovery in itself, since until then, it was believed
that acupuncture was invented in Asia around 1000 BC.
shows that the belief in the relation between the physical, biological, and
energetic parts of the body dates back to an even earlier phase in human
history. This discovery suggests, indeed, that in ancient times tattoos were