Tattoos of the Southern nations

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The tradition of tattooing in the nations from Siberia is much more ancient than in the nomadic Indo-Iranian nations. The tribes on the two continents (Eurasia and Northern America) have similar traditions and roots that are marked on the mummified remains in the Paleolithic of the Chukchi. The motifs of tattooing and the rituals of these tribes have a lot in common and this could be seen in the symbols of their tattoos. Later, during the Great Migration, the traditions of the Polynesians played an important role in the formation of the Turkic customs.

S. I. RUDENKO devoted some of his articles and researches on tattooing, especially the tattooing of the Asian Eskimos. It was a huge honor for them to tattoo their bodies. Nowadays, this tradition is gone and the tattooing is not something that they do anymore. The most common images were of simple lines and dots, all of them were considered a decoration. The tattoo was something that only morally grown people were allowed to do. Women were tattooed in the beginning of puberty, before marriage. The tattoos were usually drawn on injured body parts, because people thought that a tattoo might fasten the healing process and cure the injury. The technique of tattooing was very simple – Eskimos put thread under the skin and some ash. The most complicated tattoo designs were made for one or two days.

Men tattooed their cheeks and mouth corners with short lines and their foreheads with human figures right upon the eyebrows. The women were tattooed with more multifarious images usually on their chins or lower lips. The drawings were of three, five or seven double lines, three times fewer lines than the Alaskan Eskimos’ tattoos. The most common images were of two parallel lines luring on the two sides of the nose. The cheeks were very tough for tattooing. Usually the right cheek was tattooed with a complicated image and the left – with a simple one. Sometimes, only the right cheek was tattooed.

On the hands of women, the tattoo covered the back area, the wrist and the lower part of the hand. Usually both hands were drawn, but there were times when only one of them was tattooed. The tradition of tattooing has remained the same until today. Similar tattoos could be seen only in the nations from the islands in Bering Sea and by the West-American Eskimos. A bit simpler tattoos were made on the eastern shores of Hudson Bay and Baffin Island.

Men tattooed their bodies not so often as women. Their tattoos were not made for decoration, but they had a magical meaning for sure. A common tattoo was the one that looked a lot like the letter Y. It was considered for a whale’s tail and had a special meaning connected with whales. This Y-motif was tattooed on the cheeks and hands of women and on the corners of men’s mouths. Some other Asian northern nations (from the Pacific to Ural) tattooed the same motif.

The tattoo of the Asian Eskimos is of a huge interest, because it had managed to survive until today in its advanced form.

Until now, the social meaning of this tattoo is not clarified. It remains a secret of women, because they did not show their tattoos even to their relatives. The women from Hanti and Mansi tribes did not tell the reasons for which they have made their certain tattoos.

The age of tattooing is also not known for sure. Some say that it was made in the early childhood, other say that it was made in the beginning of puberty, at old age, before death and so on.



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