Written on the Body: The Tattoo in European and American History

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Jane Caplan
Reaktion, 2000 - Tattooing - 318 pages
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A thorough and absorbing discussion of tattooing from both historical and cultural perspectives. The irreversible tattoo has traditionally been seen as alien to Western culture and people with tattoos have been, and arguably still are, regarded as outsiders. Greek vases from the 4th century BC portrayed tattooed enemies, much as 19th-century historians and artists pictured painted Picts. The tradition of marking criminals or victims with tattoos also originated in the classical world. Romans commonly tattooed Christians before punishment but this popularised the tattoo as a symbol of martyrdom amongst the Christian community. Some medieval Christians continued the practice by using Pilgrim tattoos to announce their faith just as modern soldiers mark themselves with regiment tattoos. This collection of fourteen essays concludes with a discussion of the West's enthusiasm and fascination following the discovery of North America's tattooed tribes and reasons for the modern revival in tattoos across America and Europe.

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About the author (2000)

Jane Caplan is Marjorie Walter Goodhart Professor of European History at Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania.

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