I find tattoos immensely fascinating. From the earliest definitive example of tattoos (Ötzi the 5.000 year old Iceman), to Julius Cesar’s accounts of the painted Gauls, and Ahmad ibn Fadlan’s descriptions of the Scandinavian Rus and their intricately decorated bodies. All right, these last two might also have described temporary decorations, but let a girl dream…
We have the accounts of Polynesians and New Zealand Maori, with beautifully tattooed faces and bodies, Inuits from Greenland, Canada, and Alaska, European and American sailors tattooed with symbols and pictures, telling the stories of their travels and accomplishments. In Denmark, one of the most fascinating tattooed people, I think, was our late king Frederik the 9th who, seeing as he was educated in the Navy, thought real sailors should have tattoos. So, he developed quite a collection of them:
But, back to our artefact for today. As we can see, we have long had a fascination with expressing our history, accomplishments, beliefs, emotions, affiliation, and opinions on our skin. Tattoos have been used to treat illness and pain, to gain enlightenment, to process grief and hardship. Through pain, we send signals to the world, and sometimes we try to influence it. The tattoo kit you see above was collected on the Solomon Islands in 1959, and consists of a tattoo-needle made from a bird’s bone tied to a stick, a coconut bowl containing burnt resin, and a wooden club used for beating the needle. The bird’s bone has been filed so that it ends in six small points, and a quick google search will show you the beautiful patterns that such an instrument can create.
Back in the 1950s, tattoos were still very prevalent on the Solomon Islands, both among men and women. I wonder, what patterns this kit created?