Mutilation and tattoos

Alice Gorman (agorman@METZ.UNE.EDU.AU)
Thu, 4 Jul 1996 09:19:50 +1000

The way I understand it, the significant thing about tattoos and other
forms of "mutilation" is not their relation to ritual, but what they say
about bodies. It seems that pretty much everyone, through out the entirety
of prehistory and history, did *something* to some part of their bodies.
Body alterations can represent a gateway between the physical and the
spiritual, or be a dividing line between the "natural" and the "cultural" -
for example, marking the body with tattoos or cicatrices to distinguish
oneself from animals. In the lists of differences between primates and
humans one never sees "Humans deliberately alter the physical appearance of
their bodies", but I believe this is in fact a distinguishing feature.

Alice C. Gorman

Department of Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology
University of New England, Armidale NSW 2351
(067) 73 2306