Decoration, Meaning, and Communication

Before we plunge through into this future of the extended human, it is worth thinking a little about the past, to see from where the motivations and roots of this seemingly universal urge came. What is it that made people so yearn to change themselves, and what is it about this urge that in the end makes us human?

Marking the Skin

Tattoos have been a part of human culture as far back as we can find evidence. The earliest records are from the Palaeolithic era, 35,000 years ago. We can only assume that we humans have been marking our skin even further back in prehistory. The reasons have varied over time. Otzi the Iceman from 33,000 BC had what is known as acupuncture tattoos; these symbolic dotted and dashed lines were placed as a method to “heal” various parts of the body. Tattoos have often been used to supposedly confer magical powers.

Later, the Picts in Britain used Woad markings to scare their enemies. This theme continues in many other cultures where the tattoo is the mark of the outsider and the underclass. Japanese and Chinese bandits used tattoos to mark themselves as a member of a criminal fraternity, and still do to this day. The art receded in Western culture for a long period but was reintroduced in the nineteenth century by explorers returning from the Pacific and Southeast Asia. Tattoos then began the slow transition from a sign of someone outside of mainstream culture toward their present manifestation as a commonplace decorative lifestyle choice.

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