Brandon writes, “Got this at a biker rally in Hines, Oregon. I like to get tattoos of the major professions I have had in my life. But with the trowel everyone thinks I’m a mason. I have to tell them I am an archaeologist.”
Krista writes, “I am studying physical anthropology- paleoanthropology to be exact- and I have two South African rock art tattoos that I got after doing fieldwork over there.” This one she describes as a “San shaman piece with humans transitioning in and out of bovid (impala, etc.) forms.”
“I thought I’d send you a photo of my tattoo. I guess it fits into the ‘anthropology’ category although I’m actually a vet (I’ve seen exactly one deer in a professional capacity since I graduated). It’s a copy of a tattoo found on the Pazyryk mummy, a 2,400 year old Scythian, possibly a shaman. I’ve heard that it’s the oldest known tattoo found on a woman, but I’m not sure whether that’s correct. It was done to celebrate the end of a 1, 200 mile walk from John O Groats to Land’s End back in 2002. I’ve heard of other people with it, but haven’t seen any, so I’d be interested to find out if any of your other readers have the same one. Not as cool as some, but I like it!”
“My latest tattoo is a black-line representation of the Uffington White Horse in England. It’s a huge earthwork carved into the countryside about three thousand years ago. I’m not really sure what compelled me to get it, since I’m a grad student in English and not archaeology or anthropology. But it’s such a beautiful, simple design, and it represents a real feat of Bronze Age ingenuity.”
Carl: There was a time when the Uffington Horse was thought to be a dragon–in particular, the dragon slain by St. George. But in fact, it is older than dragons. The Uffington Horse is three thousand years old, we now know, because that is the last time that light struck the buried soil around the figure. Some kinds of soil and sand contain radioactive elements that break down at regular intervals. The energy they release damages the crystal structure of the soil particles, creating traps in which electrons get stuck. Sunlight striking the soil has enough energy to jostle the electrons free, and they release a tiny burst of energy. Once this soil gets buried, however, the electrons become trapped again, and the longer it is buried, the more electrons are trapped. Scientists dug up buried soil around the Uffington Horse and shined a light on it. Electrons incarcerated for three thousand years escaped, and in a flash, the horse had an age.
“Otzi was discovered on a glacier in the Austrian-Italian alps by a couple of hikers – his body was well-preserved along with many of his possessions. On his skin there were something like 50 tattoos, I got 10 of the lines on my back in the same place he had his. — I figure you can spiff up the facts when you actually blog this.
Anyway, Otzi was human, 100% human, 100% genetically identical to modern humans today, genetically identical to us, to me. Despite being the same species, we live in a completely different way than he does. My dad worked in an office for 35 years, all my friends work in offices, I was expected to work in an office… so I got this tattoo to remind me that regardless of what our current, blinkofaneye society expects from me, I’m still a human and whatever choice I make is ok. If I want to cross the alps on foot, that doesn’t make me any less legitimate than my office-dwelling friends. I got the tattoo to link me to an ancestral human, to pre-industrial revolution (though unfortunately post-agricultural revolution) people. We can never go back, of course, but as Thoreau wrote, ‘There are as many ways to live as radii can be drawn from the center of a circle.’”
Carl: For more on Otzi, the 5300-year old man exposed by our warming climate, see Wikipedia and this tattoo site. This article from 1994 in the New York Times notes that the marks on Otzi’s back may have actually been acupuncture rather than some kind of display. But for Mike, it’s all tattoo. (Same for Brad Pitt.)
“I thought I would send you mine : Paranthropus (Australopithecus depending on your school of thought) boisei.”–Gabrielle Russo, Hunter Colllege.
Carl: Paranthropus boisei existed from 2.3 million to 1 million years ago–a good run. It stood upright like us, but had a small brain and powerful jaws for biting tough food like seeds and roots. Paranthropus boisei is not our ancestor, not even a close cousin. Instead, it belonged to a separate branch of hominid evolution–one that may have been wiped out by a changing climate. Now it is remembered in museums and on at least one tattooed arm.
“I am a neuroscientist. As a graduate student, after successfully passing my qualifying exam, I celebrated by getting this tattoo. It is the hieroglyphic for the word “brain”. It is the earliest written reference to the brain dating back to the 17th century BC. I am convinced that the brain is the greatest mystery in the universe! “–Jason Trageser
Cleek writes: “Here’s my dromaeosaur (unfeathered) but, i’m a programmer, not a paleontologist, so i guess it’s not exactly my science. maybe i’ll get some C++ for the next one.”