Will tattoos finally be accepted as art?
He continues: “Someone sent me a British Post advertising leaflet the other day, which showed the father of a toddler with a full sleeve visible. There was a time when a relatively conservative organization as the post office did that would have created a backlash. Now it’s accepted as progressive.
However, Lodder insists that it is important that we frame tattoos as a historical “medium” rather than a “phenomenon”, with the media often downplaying the legacy of the art form by not focusing than on the buzz of more recent popularity. To truly understand the trajectory of tattoos, he says we need to dig deep into history. “Western tattooing has only been a commodity-based art form for around 140 years,” he explains, suggesting that a key driver of its commercialization in the UK was King George V, who got a “desirable” dragon tattoo. his arm during a trip to Japan as a teenager in 1881. Conversely, however, he adds, “we must also remember that there is physical evidence of tattooing dating back to 3250 BC.”
Lodder refers to Ötzi, a European Tyrolean iceman whose frozen body was preserved under an alpine glacier along the Austrian-Italian border, before finally being discovered by a puzzled German couple 5,300 years later during their walking holidays in the Alps. Ötzi had 61 tattoos on his body, the tattoos (which were mostly sets of horizontal and vertical lines) would have had a therapeutic purpose similar to acupuncture – as they tended to be clustered around the lower part of the body. Ötzi’s back and joints, areas where anthropologists say the Iceman suffered from degenerative pain and aches.
Other ancient corpses revealed even more intricate patterns. The ‘Gebelein Man’, which has been on display in the British Museum for over 100 years, has a tattoo of an interlocking sheep and bull on his arm. The naturally mummified corpse dates back to the predynastic period of ancient Egypt around 5,000 years ago, with the tattoos being permanently applied under the skin using a carbon-based substance. [experts believe it was likely some type of soot]. There is also evidence that women in ancient Egypt had tattoos, with experts speculating they were carved into the skin for the gods to protect their babies during pregnancy. The 1891 discovery of Amunet, a priestess of the goddess Hathor in Thebes, showed an extensive tattoo on the abdominal region of the mummified corpse.
A heavily tattooed warrior priestess dubbed the “Princess of Ukok” was discovered by archaeologists in the Altai Mountains – which cross Russia, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan – in 1993. The discovery of this ancient corpse of 2,500 years was particularly significant due to the immaculate preservation of skin and a torso featuring beautifully sophisticated illustrations of mythical beasts, including the antlers of a Capricorn.
Believed to be 25 when she died, the princess was one of the Pazyryks, a Scythian-era tribe who viewed body tattoos as a marker of social status, and something that would make it easier to locate them by loved ones in the afterlife. . All of these discoveries, according to Lodder, completely upend the idea that tattooing is somehow a new “trend” – in fact, it’s one of the oldest art forms on record.