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1.3.paragraphs 7-8-9-10,

The existence of tattooing and body piercing throughout history "

Chalmers begins her "history," a “charting” as she calls it 1.3.7 [Sentence 1] with

This section starts with the same misrepresentation of Jane Caplan Chalmers used in the opening paragraph. (see 1.1.1)

Both tattooing and body piercing have been practiced in almost all cultures at one time or another (Caplan, 2000).  (Chalmers:102)

Jane Caplan plainly did not include body piercing. I wonder if Chalmers confused this with Rufus C. Camphausen, where he writes on page one of his referenced celebration of body adornment, Return of the Tribal

In this book I shall attempt top provide ample evidence, in text and images, that the great variety of practices aiming at adorning, beautifying, or even modifying the human body are the most ancient and most direct expression of human creativity, known and practiced all over the globe and at all times. (1997:12)

The difference between archaeological evidence and evidence of.

Camphausen writes in Return of the Tribal, that there is a difference between archaeological evidence and what we might call inferential or circumstantial evidence of something. On page 13 Camphausen says unmistakably clearly that he is not presenting archaeological evidence there is no evidence, i.e, no human skin.

Camphausen page 13

In Indian, for example, piercing and tattooing have long been part of tradition, yet there is no record of when these practices started. Similarly, in the absence of written history, we cannot know when people from the African deserts to the Amazon rainforest truly began painting their bodies or elongating their earlobes and lips. To say that they have done so since the beginning of time does not help. Yet, I am convinced – as an avid student of history and archeology – that most of these practices are older than any existing and archeologically validated works of art, which started to appear about 30,000 years ago. One must not forget that, with the exception of mummies, all art on the human body disappears into fire or ashes along with its bearer.

Camphausen says his view about people practicing body decoration is experience-basted intuition, not "evidence" per se, a feel for the subject that he has from long study and a sense of history that leads him to feel certain that these practices are older than the archaeological evidence for art which began appearing 30,000 years ago. Chalmers has no experience of T&P to rely on and so continues a cacophony of error and no "feel" for history.

Camphausen page 5

Circa 60,000 B.C.E.
Australian Aborigines, probably the oldest peoples still now surviving practiced body painting and ritual scarification as well as penile subincision and elongation of the labia. (Camphausen, 1997:5)

Camphausen writes: Circa 60,000 B.C.E. based on intuition, referencing body painting and ritual scarification. However, works of art, archaelogical evidence, can only be dated to 30,000 B.C.E.

Chalmers misses the difference between the two and consequently gets it wrong.

Much of Chalmers' errors are based on her not knowing she doesn't have enough information. On top of that she seems not to have taken any time to understand what she had.

It's as if this entire article was "rushed' without ever having it checked by an independent reader. Someone should have caught some of this at least.

Chalmers 1.3.7 [Sentence 2] misstates Camphausen.

Camphausen (1997) evidences the wide use of tribal tattooing and body piercing within many societies from around 60,000 BCE until the modern day, and archaeological evidence dates the practice of tattooing as far back as 30,000 BCE. Rush (2005)

Camphausen writes that works of art, not tattoo and piercing, evidence began to appear at 30,000 B.C.E..

The concept of "evidence" has two important meanings.


The oldest indisputable evidence for the practice is to be found on preserved bodies accidentally or ritually mummified in one form or another. There is archaeological evidence for tattooing, including sharp bone needles associated with charcoal and red ochre that date back as far as 30,000 BCE (Before Current Era, or the beginnings of the Upper Paleolithic, although we have no actual preserved skin from that time period.) (Rush, 2005:5) 

Rush defines indisputable evidence as “preserved skin” which is not on a par with “evidence for” something, like tools. There is reason to think this "evidence" is more wishful thinking than anything else. My reasoning is that unless you have access to the experiences of current hand-poking techniques with non-metal needles, such as made of bone, you would not know that needle points made of bone become stained, chipped, and when used break and leave fragments of bone in the wound during the procedure. The finer the point the worse it is. It is more "likely" that these were sewing tools because it was found with other needles with eyes.

The bone needles are drawings referred to by Rush acknowledged only as evidence of because their use as tattoo implements cannot be archeologically verified. There is doubt about the tools because they have more plausible uses, the least plausible seemingly for tattooing.  Circumstantial aspects of the source is also disturbing: the excavator’s wife published the material 30 years after her husband’s death; the husband reportedly was executed at the hands of the state and the publication came a year before she died.

Rush's "suggests that...if"  not making a statement of "fact."


I suggest that any tattooing during the period of the Upper Paleolithic (tattooing equipment has been found dating to this time period) was more than likely naturalistic and, if the caves are any indication of artistic capability, probably quite spectacular. (Rush, 2005:11)

Terisa Green is one of the few tattoo-writers speculating about these tools at, (11-29-2009) but not in her book (that I can find) Ink, The Not-just-skin-deep Guide to Getting a Tattoo, (2005). Because there is no evidence for "widespread existence of tattooing across the globe in ancient times", (meaning 60,000 - 30,000 BCE) I disagree and don't think it is reasonable "to view these as tattoo tools."

Were these tools used for tattooing? The excavators were clearly convinced that they were, labeling them tattoo tools and emphasizing the importance of body art and decoration in this time period for the occupants of the cave. These tools might just as easily have been used for perforating animal’s hides, or used in body painting, or even conceivably used for the paintings on the walls. Other tools in the cave, however (such as needles with eyes or brushes or needles with only one pointed end) correspond well to these [other] types of tasks. 
Given the widespread existence of tattooing across the globe in ancient times, the very simple technology required to create images in the skin (a needle and pigment), the interesting ochre paste plate, the small groove in the needles, and the other types of artistic explosion happening during the Upper Paleolithic, I think it's reasonable to view these as tattoo tools. (WWW.TATTOO SYMBOL.COM, 2009)

Chalmers next writes that Egyptians tattooed mummies.

"Jones (2000)", writes two sentences which Chalmers synthesizes seemingly unaware of the humor she creates.

Jones writes:

…the Egyptians are the first to provide evidence for tattooing. Here it is first found on mummies of the Eleventh Dynasty, about 2100 BC

 Chalmers, writes 1.3.7 [Sentence 3]

Jones (2000) reports that the Egyptians provided evidence of tattooing on mummies dating from the Eleventh Dynasty around 2100 BC.

She should have just quoted, but that is not her style.

Seemingly to avoid a quote, Chalmers then changes Gilbert's "elliptical" to "oval" (without explanation).

In the next sentence Chalmers changes elliptical to oval. Gilbert is the source, so Chalmers needs to explain why Gilbert is wrong, that it is not elliptical but rather oval since Gilbert says elliptical. Again we see her "technique" of paraphrasing (?)."

Gilbert writes

Amunet’s mummy is well preserved and the tattooing can be clearly seen. Parallel lines are tattooed on her arms and thighs, and there is an elliptical pattern below her navel. (Gilbert, 2000:11)

 Chalmers  1.3.7 [Sentence 4]

Indeed, one of the best preserved mummies is Amunet, a priestess of the Goddess Hathor at Thebes during this dynasty who is noted to have parallel lines tattooed on her arms and thighs and an oval pattern below her navel. (Gilbert:2000)

To speculate: she thought she could wing it.

It seems to me, together with the tattoo lesson copied from Nurse Larkin (below), that history, facts, dates, and evidence are really for show. Chalmers' defenders might say “Does it matter if these issues are not  accurate?” I say “Yes. It matters.”

Her defenders might argue back that “Chalmers purpose is not to provide an accurate historical record but to influence policy. She is not writing as an historian. She is not an anthropologist, anatomist, psychologist or sociologist, so those subjects are incidental to the purpose of this article: to influence policy makers.”

It is obvious that the formula presentation of a health science article including history, facts, dates, and evidence is provided by Chalmers to establish her credentials as “knowing” tattoo and therefore has the store of knowledge to write about the subject. However, this so-called history provides no help in understanding the cultural historicity of T&P. If she were to declare that this was a classroom exercise to prove she could pick a subject and "make a difference" she would hardly be taken seriously. Part 1, given its size and position is designed to mislead the reader into a false conclusion.

Like the Egyptians tattooing on mummies, here's another joke.

Could Otzi the Iceman have met the Siberian Ice Maiden? Maybe, according to Chalmers.

First, Chalmers borrows from Rush.

Rush writes:

Tattooing in Europe can be dated to prehistoric times, as evidenced by the Iceman (Plate 1-7), presumed to have died around 3200 BC, predating the Egyptian material by a thousand years. (Rush 2006:25)

Next, she mixes in di Folco:

di Folco  (2004:13) writes:

…Otzi the Iceman, the mummified Austrian who dates to about 3300 BC. The man, possibly a shaman, discovered intact in a mountain glacier in 1991, his skin marked with geometric designs, and the whole of his emaciated body covered with extraordinary scarification: parallel lines, crosses and dots, formed by the addition of powdered charcoal, evidence possibly of a series of healing rites in a way similar to acupuncture.

The tattoos discovered on all the preserved bodies of the Scythian kings (500 BC) at Pazyryk (in the Altai region of Siberia) are more complex. It is possible to make out strange fantasy creatures; anthropomorphic fishes, a bird headed wild sheep, chimeras and a sphinx. The Ukok mummy (discovered in 1995, also from Siberia) is a powerfully built woman who confirms the fact that Scythians of either sex wore signs on their bodies

Chalmers is confused  (beside writing historical BC dates backwards).

1.3.7 [Sentence 5]

The mummified remains of Austrian “Otzi the Iceman”, presumed to have died around 3200-3300 BC offers evidence of the early existence of tattooing in Europe. Pre-dating Egyptian material by around 1000 years, his intact skin was discovered in 1991 with scarification using powdered charcoal and formed in geometrical style patterns, and coupled with the discovery of the female Ukok mummy confirms engagement in tattooing of both sexes from that time. (di Folco 2004, Rush, 2005)

Chalmers writes that the two discoveries “confirms engagement in tattooing of both sexes from that time.  She copies the gender reference from di Folco.  But di Folco was writing about the Scythians, (500 BC) “…Scythians of either sex wore signs on their bodies...” leaving out the date. di Folco dates the female Ice Princess Ukok to 500 BC, 2700 years after Otzi.

The following also confirms the time periods in question.

"Ice Mummies: Siberian Ice Maiden"

PBS Airdate: November 24, 1998 
NARRATOR: Tonight on NOVA, sacrificial horses guard her tomb. Gold and silk adorn her body. For 24 centuries, she was frozen in time. Was she a priestess? A warrior chief? NOVA unearths the secrets of "The Siberian Ice Maiden".

POLOSMAK: This young woman, buried with such ceremony, with her body covered in tattoos, was no ordinary member of society. She may have held a special position because she was blessed with a talent valued in that society. She could have been a shaman.

NARRATOR: For Natalia, the Ukok is an ideal place to explore the past. But to others it remains a sacred burial ground, as spiritual today as it was 2400 years ago when with great ceremony a young woman was laid to rest.

This same type of error as seen with the Egyptian mummies, and others to come, together with the Ice Man/Ice Princess should be sufficient to discredit this article.

The other error [she is not an historian we are reminded] is the expression of time in BC: di Folco writes 3300BC, Rush writes 3200 BC, and Jones writes 3300 and 3200 BC. Jones writes it in the proper order to record BC time, from oldest to newest.

Because di Folco is the only author calling tattooing “scarification” and tattooing is the descriptive word used by Jones, Gilbert, and Rush we can know the source.


The so-called “Ice Man” discovered in the Alto Adige in September 1991 was tattooed. (Jones 2000:11)


The skin is of great interest because it bears several tattoos…Spindler stated that the position of the tattoo marks… (Gilbert 2000:11)

di Folco distances himself from being considered a scholarly source, that is not his intention, nor the purpose of his book, and therefore he allows himself enthusiastic expressive liberty when he writes.

di Folco

The man, possibly a shaman, discovered intact …the whole of his emaciated body covered with extraordinary scarification…

To further reinforce that di Folco’s book of stunning photos is not written to review archaeological evidence, it contains only one paragraph on one page titled, “The evidence of archaeology.

1) Though Chalmers is not an historian she is responsible to maintain academic credibility by choosing appropriate sources for factual material.
2)The fact that she cannot judge the quality of her chosen sources and then, trying to integrate them, confuses them repeatedly, highlights the obvious conclusion that this task
is beyond her capabilities.

Acupuncture and medicinal as possible of comment.

A point related to this deals with Chalmers writing “associated with acupuncture points” and “strongly suggest they were medicinal” (which contradicts her definition of tattooing) both of which are the least likely interpretations (being superimposed by contemporary knowledge). Not to argue the case but to show that history is ambiguous:

 Chalmers 1.3.10

Analysis of the positioning of the tattoos on the mummified body of “Otzi the Iceman,” mostly over the joints and associated with acupuncture points, strongly suggest they were medicinal, for relieving pain, promoting endurance and possible anaesthesia.(p103)

When di Folco writes

evidence possibly of a series of healing rites in a way similar to acupuncture.

Words like “possibly” and “in a way similar to” are not "strongly suggest."

To my knowledge no one has written that tattoos actually increase endurance, or are anaesthetic when applied over the joints, or that tattoos actually relieved pain because of the tattoo, or its process of application. Chalmers writes “for relieving pain” and adds another use called “possible anaesthesia” suggesting she thinks it makes people numb or puts them to sleep since there are two different entries for what looks like the same idea: "relieving pain" and "anaesthesia."

Lars Rutak in Tattooing Arts of Tribal Women describes tattoo, as used and understood in certain societies, as a means of combating “spirits” and “evils” that were believed to cause pain and suffering. Tattoo for them had a supernatural, magical power but it is doubtful the pigment itself was efficacious for the benefits. Krutak does use the term medicinal and does talk about acupuncture points, but my point is, Chalmers contradicts her definition that to be tattoo, it cannot have been done for medical reasons.

In paragraph 8, Chalmers ambushes the reader by citing Aztec mutilation, penis bloodletting, (human) sacrifice, and Mayan torture-punishment as examples of “body piercing.

Without any evidence or reasons, Chalmers includes Aztec and Mayan rituals as one of the reasons for the "antipathy" to T&P over the centuries.

Chalmers gives us Egyptians tattooing mummies, Otzi meets the Ice princess, and now Aztecs conducting archaeological and anthropological exhibitions.

Chalmers, writes1.3.8 {Sentence 1]

The Aztecs are known to have practiced piercing and bloodletting, and archaeological and anthropological exhibitions displaying evidence of ear piercing dating back approximately 4,000 years, so piercing shares an equally extensive history.

The piercing and bloodletting comes from Rush, “The Aztecs were obsessed with piercing and blood-letting” (Rush, 2005:40) but the ear piercing comes from a University exhibition mentioned in the AORN study, not from Aztecs as claimed by Chalmers but from Iran.

The University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia, recently hosted an exhibit about body art. Among the artifacts were the head of a female figurine from Iran with holes for multiple ear piercings that was approximately 4,000 years old,… (3.) “Bodies of culture: A world tour of body modification,” University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, /online_exhibits/body_modification/bodmodintro.shtml (accessed 9 Oct 2003).

Next, Chalmers copies a list of historical appearances of tattoo as they appear in an on-line "course" written by a nurse, Brenda G. Larkin.

Paragraph 8 contains a list of examples, in the order in which they appear, from an on-line AORN Journal Home Study Program written by a perioperative nurse, (the AORN Journal claims peer reviewing by members of the AORN Editorial Board) and this Journal it is claimed is “award-winning”, a “Premier source”, based on scientific fact and principle”, “refereed”, and “reviewed by peers.”

…the AORN Journal, an award-winning publication and premier source of perioperative nursing information. … The AORN Journal provides professional perioperative nurses, managers, and executives with original, practical information based on scientific fact and principle. It is a refereed journal - all manuscripts are reviewed by peers from the Editorial Board and Review Panel. (accessed 12-04-2009)

…written by Brenda G. Larkin, RN, MS, CNOR clinical nurse specialist for perioperative services at West Allis Memorial Hospital, West Allis, Wis. (2003).  The ins and outs of body piercing - Home Study Program - Cover Story, AORN Journal, Feb, 2004 by Brenda G. Larkin

The ins and outs of body piercing – Home Study Program – Cover Story,
AORN Journal, Feb, 2004 by Brenda G. Larkin.

Paragraph 1.3.8  uses Brenda G. Larkin’s organizational sequence and pretty much her wording.

Larkin writes

and a Tlinglit Alaskan native with a large nose ring from the late 19th century. (3)

Chalmers incorrectly writes that this 19th century nose piercing example is the oldest.

Nose piercing can be dated back to the 19th century Alaskan natives…

Larkin writes

The Kama Sutra refers to apadravya (ie, genital piercing),

Chalmers copies:

And the Kama Sutra refers to “apadravya” (genital piercing).

Chalmers: which cannot be found in Rush or Larkin and not referenced:

Furthermore, there is indication of ear piercing in the Pazyryk mummies


And Mayan Indians pierced their tongues as a spiritual ritual


Tongue piercing in Mayan Indians

(Another example: This does not meet Chalmers’ definition that it was for the insertion of jewelry.)

Larkin’s Asian and African references below are skipped by Chalmers.


Many Asian cultures practiced ear piercing and stretching of the earlobes. It also is conjectured that the body piercings and stretched earlobes or lips common among some African natives dissuaded slave traders from potentially victimizing them. [potentially” victimizing them as if otherwise they were not victimized? WW]


…Egyptian pharaohs used navel piercing as a rite of passage.


Piercing of Egyptian pharaohs’ navels

The claim that Egyptian pharaohs needed their navels pierced as a rite of passage would certainly raise eyebrows and require an explanation. Chalmers had the good sense not to include that but included the following fiction.


Roman soldiers pierced their nipples to show their manhood, but the piercing also functioned as a method for attaching their cloaks. (4)


And nipple piercing in Roman soldiers

This may have been originally sourced from

Chalmers repeats the Roman story in 1.3.8 as if it were fact. Larkin also.

Chalmers references the very British Medical Journal article in which Ferguson H  relates these stories were made up by Doug Molloy.

It is a mystery how Chalmers turned this Mason quote into something quite different.


The Maori men of New Zealand once tattooed their faces with fierce-looking patterns, while women wore tattoos on their lips and chins….Today, only a few Maori people tattoo their faces, instead they may use face paint on special occasions to mimic the tattooed designs their great grandparents wore. (Mason 2003:12)

Chalmers writes in paragraph 9, 1.3.9

While there is historical evidence of sustained popularity in tattooing in countries such as New Zealand, Samoa, and Japan...

New Zealand ta moko on men was abandoned though women maintained the tradition of chin moko. Neither Mason nor Chalmers are familiar with the revival that started twenty years ago with the first wave of tattooists into NZ. (Mau Moko, 2007:123).There wouldn't be a revival if it still "flourished,"  and in Japan it was outlawed and driven underground. New Zealand and Japan cannot be described as experiencing continuing “popularity” only that tattoo was not completely erradicated. Only Somoans successfully resisted the efforts of the Christian missionaries in their attempts to outlaw tattooing.

To repeat a quote so that Chalmers’ context remains intact ,she writes 
Chalmers 1.3.9

...records suggest that the popularity of tattooing in Europe did not thrive and indeed declined to almost extinction by the 17th Century.  It was only during the 1760s that the practice of tattooing was re-introduced to the West when sailors returned from their travels through the Pacific having succumbed to the tattooing practices of the natives of Tahiti.

It was mentioned previously that the concept that tattoo was "popular" before the 17th Century is absurd.

The statement thatIt was only during the1760s” is care-less because Cook set sail from England in the Endeavor in 1768 and did not return to Britannia until 1771.

This carless attitude for accuracy is followed by the disappointing revelation that Chalmers is using a library-withdrawn children’s book as the source for: “charting the historical demise and reincarnation of tattooing” i.e., Mason (2004). This has many obvious implications, all of them bad.

Chalmers 1.3.9

Interestingly, as Mason (2004) charts the historical demise and reincarnation of tattooing to the Western world, he makes a more fundamental association between tattooed sailors (renowned for their unruly behavior) and the overriding negative impression of tattoos and tattooing that would be held within Western society over subsequent centuries. (Chalmers:103)

The idea that the unruly behavior of sailors is behind the negative impression of tattoo held within society for centuries is contradicted by unanimous scholarly research on the subject. She had a chance to discover Jane Caplan, but it was not to be, and clearly not read.

Geoffrey Blainey's narrative of Captain Cook and His Rivals in the South Pacific, Sea of Dangers presents quite a different picture of sailors: of severe discipline and control (and a serving of grog per day). Like the fictionalized piercing stories, this bad wrap may come from watching too many "swashbuckler" movies though Bowery Stan does recount that during the fourties fights were common among lower class workers, military men, and other rough diamonds in "seedy" areas of New York, like the Bowery.  (Angelo Scotto, 2010).

Mason’s book, Body Piercing and Tattooing – (Need to know) is classified by the publisher as “Juvenile literature.”  More shameful "peer" reviewing.

Mason's thin little book is listed as "Juvenile literature" offering no references and no credentials to be considered an authority.

To refute Mason, and Chalmers, the reasons for historical antipathy in the West are outlines by many scholarly works including DR Simmons' Ta Moko, Gell’s Wrapping in Images, Margo DeMello’s Bodies of Inscription, Nicholas Thomas’s Tattoo, Bodies, Art, and Exchange in the Pacific and the West, Jane Caplan’s   Written on the Body, and Juniper Ellis's Tattooing the World.

Simmons writes

The changing social systems and values allied to European influences led to the abandonment of male moko after 1865. However, although the abandonment was complete as far as the men were concerned, the opposite was true for women...

This development takes place between 1824 and 1840 at the period when male moko was loosing its impetus. The development of female moko compliments almost exactly the decline and disappearance of male moko, then continues to replace male moko entirely into the last quarter of the twentieth century.

The female moko became the symbol of identity. The ancient way of emphasizing social importance for men of special significance to the tribe was to be tattooed. Women were now fulfilling this role. (Simmons, 1986, 2004 reprint:151)

Ellis's Introduction, pages 5, 8, and 9, points to the effect O'Connell had (a castaway in the Caroline Islands in the 1830's and returned to America in 1853) as the first fully tattooed performer and showman exhibiting his tattooed body in "melodramas, circuses, and P.T. Barnum's American Museum..." and "...dancing on stages up and down the eastern seaboard."

Even so, O'Connell's performances were considered threatening to gender roles and standard reproduction. And here, perhaps, we see a dramatized beginning of a tradition outside the Pacific that will read tattoo as a sign of depravity, and of a particularly sexual disorder. A diagnostic tradition that correlates tattoo with the individual psyche and with a sexuality run rampant is anticipated in the streets of New York, where women and children ran away from O'Connell screaming. Ministers inveighed from the pulpit, counseling pregnant women to avoid viewing the tattooed Irishman. Failure to do so, they warned women, would transmit the tattoo marks to their unborn children. O'Connell becomes a template that reproduces the Pohnpein women's designs, a fantastic version of the way tattoo travels into the world. (Ellis: 9)

I hope I will have time to develop the importance tattoo has had for women in the late 20th and early 21st Century in that it has particularly and pointedly enabled women to return the "stare" overcoming the gender stigma of the 19th and 20th Centuries. Women in non-western tattoo can be studied in the tattooing arts of tribal women by Lars Krutak.

As David Hanlon notes, "O'Connell had described tattooing on the island as a highly refined art form entrusted almost exclusively to women and used for purposes of recording individual lineages and clan histories.  As with most other aspects of Pohnpein culture, however, the importance of women went unnoticed by outsiders, whose understanding of others was limited by their own particular notions of propriety. (Ellis:5)

As for the gender role he performs in his narrative, he shows himself to be a man penetrated by women. That position was familiar to men in Pohnpei, but not to men in the United States. (Ellis: 8)

To summarize some authors, the negative view of tattoo has come from various sources: Christian persecution; penal and punitive use for thousands of years from Persia to Ancient Greece to the Roman Empire, punitive practices in Europe, the British Isles, Siberia and Russia; criminologists at the turn of the 20th century attempting to interpret tattoo as a defining sign of a criminal nature or degenerate personality; low class status of those who got tattooed, sailors, soldiers, workers and laborers; philosopher Immanuel Kant; writers and pundits in the press; parents objecting to their children being tattooed; circus and sideshow exhibitions of the tattooed freaks, even the Pacific-tattooed white men who returned to the US disavowing their cooperation in being tattooed; Olive Oatman's captivity and forced tattooing by American Indians and her imitators; disapproving articles in newspapers, books and the local health care provider warning against tattooing. Even today, those who do not approve of tattoo are conspicuously outspoken and harangue against tattoo in spite of culture's changes.

A section in Mason’s Need to Know, “History of Tattoos” is 31 sentences long (pretty short for being treated as an authority), divided into 5 sections titled: Tatau, New Zealand, Samoa, Japan and Into the West.  The sections are written in short lively bursts to provide anecdotally interesting material for children. We will return to that section shortly but first a  look at Mason's "Piercing History" because yopu will wonder how, or why it was approved by the publisher as appropriate for children. You should get a copy of this book, but don’t give it to your kids. Mason’s book would likely stimulate juveniles into thinking about sexual practices that could harm them.

Mason’s Body Piercing and Tattooing – (Need to know).

Body Piercing Section in Mason's book.

Mason’s “History of body piercing” consists of 18 sentences. 15 of the 18 sentences (3 of the paragraphs) deal with: nipple piercing, girls’ virginity (FGM), two penis piercing stories, and a 3-sentence paragraph about sailors wearing gold earrings.

The sexualized stories were invented by Doug Molloy.

Chalmers presents this fictional material as true even though she references Ferguson H who reports that those stories were invented by Doug Molloy. 

It would be fair to say that Jane Caplan and here Ferguson H were copied into the narrative but never read.


…Cleopatra, for example, is said to have had one of her nipples pierced because it was inverted. She did not like the way it looked, so had the nipple pierced and would put a tiny smooth stone in the hole to make her nipple stick out. (Mason 2003:8)

No parent would think this fiction proper for children.

Mason doesn’t know that 1) this procedure doesn’t work and 2) it would be impossible to be putting a stone in and out of a nipple piercing because it would irritate and be very painful, swollen and not attractive.

In 1995, I received Gauntlet Piercer Training, the premier training available during the early 90s in the USA, and subsequently performed a thousand or more piercings and at least two to correct inverted nipples.  Both of those attempts "grew out." I have photos of the progress of one showing the stages of growing out. Physically,  a recessed nipple, even after piercing, still exerts an inward pull on the nipple, so the jewelry grows out on its own over time. This can be visualized like a splinter growing out of the skin.

Mason’s second paragraph deals with the use of piercing as a symbolic sacrifice of a girl’s virginity (!). The only likely practice is the female genital mutilation of girls by cutting off their clitoris and sewing the vagina shut allowing only a small hole for menstrual fluid to pass. Based on common knowledge this is FGM.

Mason writes:

Girls who were about to become women attended a special ceremony at which the piercing was performed. The ceremony included a symbolic [author’s emphasis] sacrifice of their girlhood, or viginity. (Mason2003:8)

Camphausen, on page 90 writes (with a picture of the painting ceremony):

These two young girls from the Ivory Coastare being painted in preparation for the now controversial ceremony of clitoridectomy. Not being informed of the consequences, they are led to believe that this "initiation" transforms them from girls into women.

On the facing page, Mason, pours it on, presenting two penis piercing stories which Chalmers references in this article.  I am not making this up. Here is Mason’s first children’s penis story.


Protective piercings 
Gladiators in the Roman arenas are said to have had the ends of their penises pierced, for two reasons. First, to stop them having children with lower-class women (rich women are said to have sometimes paid to have the children of famous gladiators). Unless the penis ring was released it was impossible for the gladiators to have sex. Secondly, a gladiator who fought naked could strap his penis against his leg to keep it out of the way of swinging blades, spears and other weapons. (Mason 2003:9)

And the second penis story approved for children

Fashion victims 
In Britain many Victorian gentlemen felt that their trousers would hang better if everything could be kept smart below the waistline. Some apparently had their penises pierced with a ring so that they could be held in position that wouldn’t spoil the look of the latest fashionable trousers. Even Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, is alleged to have had his penis pierced. (Mason 2003:9)

Chalmers aparently knew these were invented stories because she references, in this journal article, an interview by Ferguson H (1999) British Medical Journal 319 1627-9 that reports that these stories about piercing were made up by Gauntlet-founder Jim Ward’s friend Doug Molloy. These are the first 150 words of Ferguson.

Body piercing has been practiced in almost every society as far back as it is possible to trace, but it has usually been confined to the ears, mouth, and nose. Notable exceptions are the practice of piercing the glans penis with a bone by a few tribes in Borneo, and the mention of penis jewellery in the Karma Sutra (probably through the foreskin). Discussion of female nipple jewellery in Victorian journals implies that this is not a completely modern idea, but most of the stories about the origins of piercings, such as the idea that Prince Albert wore a penis ring to tie his member down and prevent an offensive bulge in the breeches, are modern myths.  In fact, most of the names given to piercings are made up. This was revealed in an interview with Jim Ward,1  who in the late 1970s started the piercing movement, created Piercing Fans International Quarterly and made Gauntlet body piercing jewellery, all of which was reportedly financed by his friend Doug Molloy. It seems that Molloy felt that piercing needed a bit more romance surrounding it. He invented a wide selection of names and histories to make it more interesting, and now that they have appeared in print the names have become accepted as fact. Ferguson H (1999)

Chalmers would have to offer evidence that she believes or has reason to believe that Ferguson was wrong and Mason correct.

Our senses, becoming numb at this point, are not surprised to read Chalmers asserting that tattooing was "popular" in Europe prior to the 17th century based on Mason.


Into the West 
Although people in ancient Europe had once tattooed themselves, the practice had largely died out by the 17th century. (Mason, page 14)

Chalmers reworks Mason:

the popularity of tattooing in Europe did not thrive and indeed declined to almost extinction by the 17th century.

In Europe, tattoo was used as punishment and identification of galley slaves and criminals. The little voluntary tattooing there was, was as exotic oddity, or pilgrims from the holy land, or seen as signs of an adventure, including sailors, hardly visible except  as “…a common sight in the fairgrounds of Europe…the savage who had been captured at the edges of the world, his body decorated with strange and indelible blue images.” (Oetterman, p193).

Mason’s first section:

For hundreds of years the islands of the Pacific Ocean – especially Samoa, Tahiti, New Zealand and Japan – have practiced the art of tattooing….Tattooing is still common in the Pacific, though some styles of tattoo have begun to die out. (Mason 12)

Chalmers 1.3.9 (paragraph 9)

While there is historical evidence of sustained popularity in tattooing in countries such as New Zealand, Samoa, and Japan, records suggest that the popularity of tattooing in Europe did not thrive and indeed declined to almost extinction by the 17th century.

Willowdean Chatterson Handy reports (1921) in Tattooing in the Marquesas that women were expected to start tattooing between 7 and 12 years of age. To not be tattooed would have been unthinkable.  However, under sustained efforts by Christian missionaries, tattoo did decline except it remained hidden and only in Samoa was it present openly. The Samoans were able to resist the missionaries. (Caplan,  Thomas, Gilbert, Allen)

Japan and New Zealand suffered periodic repression, outlawing, and in Aotearoa, the Eurpoean trade in Maori heads, the creation of a monetary society and employment opportunities controlled and dominated by European ideas of appropriate appearance, ta moko disappeared for men though continued for women. It is not true to say that New Zealand and Japan had sustained popularity. Scholarly works report they had their ups and periods of repression. (Thomas, Tattoo; Kitamura, Bushido:2001).

The consensus among these scholarly authors is that some Pacific tattooing was continued but “under skirts” and hidden from view.

Juniper Ellis writes in Tattooing the World

Indeed, several Tongans identify relatives who were tattooed in the twentieth century, suggesting that just as moko never disappeared entirely from Aotearoa, the tatatau continued in Tonga long after it was believed gone. (Ellis 2008:127)

Tattoo in the Society Islands, Hawai’i, and Tonga thus holds important implications for rethinking some of the central assumptions about Pacific history and culture. (Ellis 2008:130)

From Maori Tattooing, by HG Robley, offering a dire assessment of the survival of tattooing.

Yates (1835) says that in all mission stations tattooing has been forbidden, and that it is generally understood that any person coming to live at a mission must no longer submit himself “to such a savage and debasing performance.” Nowadays, the art is no longer practiced among the men, and living examples of it are only to be found amongst the older generation….As early as 1835, Darwin, in the famous journal of the expedition of H. M. S. Beagle, records that the practice of moko was diminishing… 
With the death of King Tawhiao on August 27th, 1894, at the age of 70, one of the last really fine specimens of Moko was lost to the world.  Maori Tattooing, HG Robley, pp121-123, 1896, reprinted Dover 2003.

Alfred Gell writes in Wrapping in Images

With the major exception of Samoa, where tattooing survives to this day as a flourishing practice (and a very partial exception of New Zealand), I am here dealing with institutions which did not outlive the nineteenth century, and which often were in steep decline much earlier than that (in the Society Islands for instance, tattooing had mostly ceased by the end of the 1820s, and in Tonga by mid-century). (Gell, 1993:42)

Though Alfred Gell is extensively cited by many scholars for his examination of tattoo in reference to the political and social life in Pacific island groups, using only the written records, Tricia Allen, Anthropolgist, Iconographer and Tattooist in the Pacific, in her book Tattoo Traditions of Hawaii criticizes Gell for dismissing the importance of Hawaiian tattooing based on text references alone. Of course she is right. (Allen, 2005:94) Nevertheless Wrapping in Images still attracts attention and Allen does agree Gell has much to offer.

Juniper Ellis, in Tattooing the World writes about Tonga

The early anthropologists, like most other traveling writers who came to the region, believed they were part of an eleventh-hour expedition to record pieces of a vanishing culture. Given that assumption, it is not hard to understand why they missed vital practices that had gone underground and under clothing. (Ellis, 130)

Aisea Toetu’u, for example, who now works as a tattooist himself, notes that his grandfather was reportedly one of the last men to wear the tattoo. That would mean his grandfather had been tattooed in the first half of the twentieth century. And Rodney (Ni) Powell, another tattooist who has helped spark revived interest in Tonga tattoo, notes that his own uncle sailed to Samoa to receive a pe’a, since the practice was illegal in Tonga in the mid-1950’s. (Ellis 2008:128)

It is surprising to read that tattooing on Tonga remained illegal even in the 1950s, but it remains against the law in many places even today and only legalized in NYC in 1997 and in Boston in 2001.


On the Samoan Islands, tattooing was a mark of a man’s ability to bear pain. This is still true today, and not just for Samoan men. In Samoan society a man without tattoos would have been thought a complete weakling. (Mason, 2003:13)

Masons’ analysis contains a point of Samoan tattoo traditions but his focus is too narrow. It must be remembered that Mason is writing for children, not adults so a certain amount of poetic license might be considered appropriate. However, Chalmers' article should not be given the same treatment.

Gell writes:

But I do not think that peer-group pressure, or indeed any personal motive, such as the desire to impress others, was the most significant reason for universal male tattooing in Samoa. Most writers on Samoa have emphasized the exceptionally politicized nature of Samoan society, even at the smallest group level, and the importance of ceremonial displays of rank (M. Mead 1930; Shore 1982). It is quite clear from Stair’s account that the prestige and authority of a chief would be very much at issue during the tattooing ceremony conducted for his son. The tattooing of a young man of chiefly family was a pretext for important prestige feasts, and the occasion for obligatory displays of loyalty by his political subordinates, a category which would include his own son, who was obliged to become tattooed, and also the lower-ranking chiefs and tulafe who were associated with him, and their sons, who were also consequently obliged to become tattooed. For youths in the supporter category, one presumes, refusal to become tattooed along with the chief’s son would have been regarded as a serious act of defiance and political affront. In other words, the stated reasons advanced for becoming tattooed by Samoan men are secondary rationalizations. Tattooing was effectively compulsory, given the authority exercised by fathers and chiefs over sons and political subordinates, and personal motives are neither here nor there. (Gell 55)

Steve Gilbert published an interview with my friend Tricia Allen, an authority on Polynesian tattoo, a trained anthropologist, included in Gilbert’s Tattoo History, A Source Book, page 190, confirming the Samoan perseverance and opposition to Christian missionary pressure to stop Samoan tattooing.

Tricia Allen

Samoa is the only place that has a continuous history of tattooing from ancient to modern times.  In Samoa, the government never banned tattooing. The missionaries tried to discourage it, but they couldn’t ban it. (Gilbert 2000:190)

Mason must never have read anything about the history of Japanese tattoo either, otherwise he would not have written this:


Traditionally, people who had full-body tattoos in Japan belonged almost entirely to an organized group of criminals called yakuza.

The Japanese history of the Yakuza covers a complex period interrupted by World War II and would be a digression not necessary here.

However, to show that tattoo did have a prior tattoo history before the Yakuza, in 1901 Captain F. Brinkley wrote in Japan, Its History and Literature

Chinese analysts, writing in the third century, allege that the Japanese tattooed their faces and bodies, the positions and size of the designs constituting an indication of rank. Tattooing the body and cutting the hair were counted by the Chinese as violations of the rules of civilization, and they offer an interesting explanation of the origin of the customs in Japan. They allege that the first rulers of that country were wandering princes of the Chou dynasty (1200 B.C.) who abandoned their patrimony in China, and migrated southwards, cutting their hair and tattooing themselves, to mark the completeness of their expatriation.  The theory is quite untenable. One well-known Chinese work regards tattooing in Japan as a protection against the attacks of marine creatures of prey. But there are strong reasons to doubt whether tattooing was at any time prevalent among the Japanese proper. Possibly Chinese writers failed to distinguish between the inhabitants of the Riukiu archipelago and the people of Nippon, for tattooing of the face was never practiced by the Japanese, whereas the habit did prevail among the people of Riukiu. Another reasonable hypothesis is that tattooing was introduced among a limited section of the nation when Japan received the Malayan element of her population. At all events, in every era it was confined to the lowest classes, namely, those who bared their bodies to perform the severe labour falling to their lot. Japan, Its History and Literature, Captain F. Brinkley, Vol. 1, 1901, pp 67-68

Moving from History Chalmers introduces the function of T&P.

The sub-section, “The function of…”, paragraph 10, expands the negativity arguments against tattoo. The first negative argument was discussed above: an attempt to make the case by inference that T&P shares the same roots as horrific punishment, self-mutilation and human sacrifice, such as sticking stingray spines through the ear, cheek, lip, tongue and penis and this negativity is “equally applicable” to T&P within modern Western society.

The big argument: The God of the Jews prohibited tattooing. The Christian God does not like female adornment.

Chalmers text 1.3.10 

Never cut your bodies in mourning for the dead or mark your skin with tattoos, for I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:28)

I want women to be sensible about their clothes and to dress properly, not with fancy hair styles or with gold ornaments or pearls.  (Timothy 2:9) (Chalmers 103)

This is the cultural-biblical heritage of the West that is described as in peril.

Chalmers presents a pivotal negative argument that the popularity of tattoo threatens the cultural heritage of the Christian West.

This is interrupted by the following theatrical narrative.

Applying equally to body piercing, potential purposes of tattooing include decoration, religious significance, association with magic, means of discipline, or inference of identity, occupation and status. Whether to confirm, conceal, conform or rebel, whether considered pleasing and sought-after or disrespectful and even blasphemous, whether viewed as foul and unclean or objects of beauty and pleasure, the symbolism associated with tattooing and body piercing demonstrate unique abilities of cultural expression clearly dependent upon societal heritage, tradition and convention.  This conjures the notion of “passing on” and “consolidation” by subsequent generations, and while true in some cultures, the same cannot be claimed within Western society.

This surprise, uncharacteristically eloquent, and melodious, brainstorming list of functions does not apply equally to T&P. Using the word “potential” to avoid being unbelievable.

To use the word "potential" without specifying "how likely" is to obfuscate the subject.

The purpose of using the word potential is to divert attention from the degree or likelihood of something, so that a potential will carry the same importance or likelihood as an unlikely happening. This is intended to mislead. “Potential” can include anything imaginable, and that is the problem. To give an example: anyone would be hard pressed to find realistic examples of body jewelry used to conceal?

Tattoo may not promote the continuation of Christianity but the lack of a tattoo is not a negative. It is similar to what Fontenelle wrote that the number of people who beleive in something already established in teh world does not add to its credibility, but the number of those who doubt it, tends to diminish it.

Writers such as Alfred Gell elaborated on how tattoo, in Pacific cultures, was instrumental for the continuation of some societies, and by contrast we can see in the West that tattoo does not function to specifically and ritualistically promote our Western Christian heritage. T&P have not been widely embraced nor been considered as such a sign or symbol.

Chalmers writes

 “…the symbolism associated with tattooing and body piercing demonstrates unique abilities of cultural expression clearly dependent upon societal heritage, tradition and convention.” 

Tattoo is so unique to the wearer and the viewer, Chalmers' "dependent upon" is only true in certain societies of the past and not true of large societies today. In the West it is an individual expression except in "pockets of practitioners" as in marking gang affiiation.

I also don't agree that there is aunique ability” to be “symbolic” inherent in T&P as opposed to other repositories of symbolism.  It is different, yes, but not a unique ability to be symbolic. There are other things that equally demonstrate symbolic meaning that have the same amount of “messaging:” for example, Flags, Fraternal and Coats of Arms, logos, names, physical objects such as Big Ben, and particular graphic symbols as well that can stand for nations and ideologies and religions, even the McDonald arches are iconic. On Cook’s first voyage a number of sailors tattooed a star on their chests as a fraternal bond and marker of their experience. (Thomas)

T&P can be described as a unique way to do this, but having the capacity to carry meaning is not unique, but common. However, symbolism works both ways and contradicts her argument.  

The prohibition of T&P creates an excluded group of non-tattooed people, differentiated from the tattooed. This is itself a “passing on” and “consolidation” of tattoo as a negative sign or value to some groups, a societal message of exclusion. It’s the other side of the same coin. For some Christians, tattoo marks are signs of exclusion from the Christian God’s family of the saved which will not remind believers of the Jewish God saving Cain by marking his forehead but the Harlot tattooed on her forehead in the Final Days.

Chalmers continues

As noted earlier, the revival of tattooing in the 18th century was much associated with unruly sailors (Mason, 2004).

This fiction is invented by Paul Mason:

At the time, sailors were just about the toughest, most unruly and uncontrollable people around. Ever since Cook’s explorations, tattoos have been associated with sailors. This is perhaps the reason tattoos gained a disreputable image. (Mason, 2004:15)

Chalmers makes four errors in one sentence.
1. T
here is an association but it is misplaced and  misunderstood.
2. Mason says "perhaps" and Chalmers thinks this means "was much associated."
3. It wasn't a revival, it was the discontinuous beginning.
4. Mason's subject is not "revival" but "disreputable image."

Chalmers from 1.3.9 (9th paragraph)

Interestingly, as Mason (2004) charts the historical demise and reincarnation of tattooing to the Western world, he makes a more fundamental association between tattooed sailors (renowned for their unruly behavior) and the overriding negative impression of tattoos and tattooing that would be held within Western society over subsequent centuries.

Chalmers continues

During the 19th and 20th centuries there is strong evidence in the literature to suggest tattooing continued to be almost wholly synonymous with the marginalized of Western societies – early surveys to record and classify tattoos of criminals for the purpose of identifying re-offenders by French teacher and renowned criminologist Alexandre Lacassagne between1881 and 1910 clearly highlight the previous underworld nature of such activity (di Folco, 2004).

First, when she writes

...there is strong evidence in the literature...

Chalmers offers Mason's children's book as "the literature."  Quite the contrary. If real academic literature were studied this article would not have be written.

One way of looking at the association is very well laid out by Alexander Sidorov "exploring the origin of Russian criminal tattoos" in Danzig Baldeev's Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia trilogy, Volume III.

An English Trace on a Russian Body

The art of the tattoo arrived in the Old World from the South Seas during the Age of Exploration. Imitating indigenous peoples, sailors and pirates were eager to have similar drawings on their bodies: James Cook's crew were known to have practiced the art of tattooing during their first voyage around the world.

Not only did the numerous tattoos worn by sailors serve to mark their occupation, but they also symbolized the bearer's initiation into the realm of perils and fabled riches encountered in distant lands.  The officers of these expeditions, who were from the highest ranks of nobility, did not neglect the opportunity to display their exotic tattoos either. In the salons of the beau monde, such tattoos gave them an air of valour and boldness. They were a permanent mark of the bearer's thirst for adventure and demonic bravado. Travels, battles with pirates and savages, and the hardships of maritime life tested the mettle of these sea dogs. (Baldeev 2008:17)

In Russia, sailors' tattoos were the original source for their criminal counterparts. This is evident from the standard motifs that English tattoo artists used in the period between the two World Wars. (p21)

These lifelong marks on the body and face of hard labor convicts can be considered the earliest symbols of membership in the world of outcasts: the first criminal tattoos. (p21)

In all likelihood, the custom of tattooing appeared among criminals in czarist Russia towards the end of the 19th and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, when the country was gripped by a tattoo mania. (p23)

The tattoo had become widespread among Russian criminals by the beginning of the 20th century. (p23)

Genet's documentation (1924) ...A high percentage of tattoos were found among socially dangerous elements...Thus it was superfluous to attach special symbolism to a tattoo: merely having one was proof of a criminal past . (p25)

In the early 1930's, the Russian criminal caste system emerged...The tattoo developed a special status, and virtually all professional criminals were tattooed. (p25)

In general the tattoos of the 1930s and 1940s had no secret meanings. (p27)

Up until the Great Patriotic War (Second World War), any tattoo signified membership in a professional criminal brotherhood. The only exceptions were sailors, whose tattoos were considered to be professional insignia. (p27)

Apart from the tattoos of criminals and sailors, Russians had virtually no other body decorations. (p27)

Chalmers is trying to paint a negativity by claiming that tattoo proves an association with criminality and the underworld of crime as if the West had the same history as, for example, Russia. Not being familiar with tattoo history in the West or this historical debate of the late 19th century, though she refers toAlexandre Lacassagne, she  demonstrates her lack of knowledge showing no real effort or work, and certainly no effort to acquire a knowledge of academic sources. Not even realizing that she is writing nonsense, this article resurrects the atavism-degeneration debate that absorbed criminologists at the turn of the century (which debate faded away by1914 as unsupportable, not socially significant, and anthropologically rejected other than as a means of identifying recidivists), (Gell, Caplan) so much so, that criminologists and the French Police themselves dropped the association of tattoos with criminality a century ago.

Criminologists studied tattoos as a means of identification which does not mean that tattoo was basically a criminal underworld activity. It actually had a larger more important penal use throughout history. With feigned "savvy" she writes that this “clearly highlight the previous underworld nature of such activity.”

Without knowledge of her subject, it is a sad article indeed.

These snippets of information create a false history as if this paper were hurried over a few weekends, or as a class homework assignment, or a teacher's sample of "How to Write a Paper to Influence Others to Action."

But the object of Part 1 is not accuracy or history, but to piece together arguments, talking points, that seem to support her agenda to influence policy makers, arguments that can be used by others to influence policy makers: a plan of attack is laid out as it were.

It is important to quote from Jane Caplan’s article, Chapter 10, “National Tattooing”: Traditions of Tattooing in Nineteenth-century Europe for an academic background for this atavism-degeneration issue.

…obsessive researches have bequeathed a rich archive of images as well as a more patchy account of the conditions under which tattoos were acquired and the motives for their acquisition. The most celebrated collectors of this data were the criminologists Cesare Lombroso (1836-1909) and Alexandre Lacassagne (1843-1924), whose investigations of tattooing in Italy and France became public in the 1880s and launched an important international debate between the Italian and French schools of criminology. This debate, as is well known, turned on the physical symptoms of criminality and the degree to which these could be attributed to atavism or degeneration, and the criminal character itself to heredity or environment. Although there were thus significant differences in the two criminologists’ analyses and conclusions, both were agreed in linking tattoos closely to criminality, and it is that association that became the most familiar lesson of their research. Up to this point, however, in so far as tattoos had been noticed at all, they were not regarded as reliable signs of criminality. More often than not, tattooing was treated by earlier nineteenth-century observers as a foreign habit imported by sailors who had acquired the technique from Pacific islanders in the eighteenth century and had then passed it on to soldiers and manual labourers within Europe. The apparent exoticism of the practice and its popularity among men of the lower classes ensured that (in continental Europe at any rate) tattooing had generally been dismissed as a foolish and uncivilized form of ornamentation – “a bizarre decoration” borrowed by sailors from “savages” and propagated by “idleness and caprice”. (Caplan :156)

Britain presents an interestingly anomalous case in this context: not only was British criminology relatively disassociated from the continental schools, but tattooing was sufficiently normalized that it attracted virtually no official or scholarly attention…because continental criminology was to this extent irrelevant, the tattoo was never pathologized to the same extent in Britain as it was elsewhere in Europe….the data itself more often bore witness to the fact that tattooing was also a popular habit among the white male working class in Europe and could not readily be identified with either “atavism” or “degeneracy.” (Caplan :158)

The “idleness” and “boredom” of men confined for long periods without adequate occupation were persistently identified as the principal motivations for getting tattooed. (Caplan :164)

It was also typical of both the French and German accounts (unlike the more focused Italian research) to include careful descriptions of the techniques and practitioners of tattooing: these conveyed a strong and informed impression of tattooing as a normal practice in popular culture, fostered by fairground and circus entertainers, popular reportage, and in some countries the tattooing craze that developed around the turn of the century. (Caplan: 165)

We should not be surprised to find that Rumania, with its close cultural associations with France, brought forth research in 1899 that was comparable in scope to Lacassagne’s. The author, Nicolas Minovici, was head of the Rumanian anthropometric service and thus in a position to monitor thousands of individuals who went through the system…could conclude only that in his country tattooing had few indigenous roots and “no connection whatsoever with atavism and even less with criminals.” (Caplan  :167)

French police science discounted the significance attached to tattoos by criminal anthropology, and concentrated on their value as a mark of identification… (Caplan  :167)

The psycho-babble presented next is moref scandal to come from Chalmers' pen.

Chalmers introduces an unknown, unverified, perhaps invented definition in what might be an imaginary dictionary of psychology. In any case it is self-contradictory and so distorted that it has no reflection of any view held by anyone. Even di Folco, where Chalmers found it, includes this passage so that he can ridicule it.  But Chalmers takes it seriously, and is believign anything negative thrown against tattoo.

Chalmers thinks this is stereotypical and says people believe it. However, if anyone did believe it, they themselves would be subjects of psychiatric interest.


This negative view of tattooing is further emphasized through the description of “tattoo” reported to have appeared in a 1970s dictionary of psychology as:

“Fetishist tribes practicing it are to be found in Africa and Polynesia. The practice is also observed in certain groups: seamen, the armed forces, and in categories such as prisoners. Individuals who submit to it generally possess a malleable, weak and fairly unbalanced personality. Tattooing almost always has a magical aspect and often serves a naïve narcissistic tendency (virile affirmation), but it may also satisfy an associative need (membership of a caste or secret society), or indicate a desperate attempt at defiance. It is always a sign of emotional immaturity.” (di Folco 2004:49) (Chalmers :103)

Di Folco immediately dispuites it, which is conspicuously left out of Chalmers' narrative.

Times change – and yet prejudices persist!  Darwin, of course, observed that there is no people on this earth for whom the practice is totally unknown.


This stereotypical view fueled opposition, negativity and distaste for such activity and is still the view held by much of the current day older generation.

This is absurd. More fantasy, baseless writing. This particular charge represents, not the lowest ebb she sinks to (the real low tide will be revealed later) but pretty close to the bottom of the barrel.

This view is not stereotypical, nor held by much of the older generation.

First, notice these problems:

A) The contradiction: the description of sailors as the most unruly and then described as  "Individuals who submit to it generally possess a malleable, weak and fairly unbalanced personality".

B) There is no record of this "dictionary" or reference to be found anywhere. A Google search for these phrases cannot be found.

C) Worst of all, Chalmers insults older people: "and is still the view held by much of the current day older generation". Though it is quite clear that much of our parents generation (being born in the 1950s to 1970s), and more-so of our our great-grandparents generation had a negative connotation of tattoo I would dispute that it resonates like that today.

Tattoo is widely accepted as a personal choice today, even by our parents' generation,  and hardly regarded as a defining indicator of a psychological or medical problem.

Chambers continues

But rather than being secured and reinforced within the social norms of subsequent generations or continuing to hold negative connotation, such a stance has been less influential with many of the younger generations, who see both tattooing and body piercing as decorative items and activities of fashion or as a route to peer association and acceptance. Such a change in perception is echoed by the extent of global revival of both activities (Denton, 2001).

If anything, there was an opportunity to ask the question "why?"

As a contributing theory, as Michael Fitzpatrick wrote in The Tyranny of Health, the fall of the Berlin Wall on New Years eve 1989 symbolized the end of the Cold War, the end of the Soviet Union, the end of independent state economies, the end of competing ideologies, national goals or aspirations. Capitalism and democracy triumphed. With no "national" goals individuals and the West turned inward to make itself the goal of their work: the rise of body building, self-help books, tattoo, bulimia, liposuction, breast implants, fitness centers, yoga and the obsession with health which today is the major product of the US.  

It is surprising to me that the young generation is not rioting in the streets protesting the vast numbers of people around the globe negatively impacted by the management and control that has brought ruination to millions. A poem by Steven Crane speaks to this point: that went something like this: "Many workmen built a huge ball of masonry on the top of mountain. They descended to the valley below to behold their work. They loved the thing. Of a sudden it moved. It came upon them swiftly and crushed them all to blood. But some had opportunity to squeal."

The false dichotomy used in this article "echoes" the false dichotomy between political parties in the US: extensive government control on the one side vs. laissez faire.

In the 1970s we were marching in the street demanding change, but today this generation is symptomatically too busy texting to be concerned with things outside themselves, being pre-occupied, obsessed with how the self is doing as the center of all things.

If T&P did not have the allure of the forbidden, and if the younger generation actually had something to believe in and work towards, it is unlikely T&P would have reached such proportions. T&P look like results, not a cause.

Chalmers writes: 1.3.10

The function of tattooing and body piercing within societal culture
The purpose of tattooing and body piercing when considered historically has much wider significance than the current fashion statement seen within Western societies.

Chalmers borrowed a lot from di Folco.

di Folco writes in Skin Art

Tattooing and piercing have been with us for thousands of years, have been practiced in most of the countries around the globe, and must originally have had a wider significance than mere fashion. (di Folco 2004:8)

But it is wrong for several reasons.

Tattoo is also a fashion statement.

First, today’s use of tattoo includes fashion but many other reasons as well. Tattoo is not a “mere” fashion statement. Historically, tattoo was also used for fashion, from Siberia to the Pacific. T&P are culturally dependent and often included fashionable elements.

Secondly, I object to di Folco's use, and Chalmers' use of the word “fashion” as an insult, as degenerated from a supposed “true” more noble use or purpose, as if tattoo should be something, but not a fashion statement. Tattoo is indulged in as fashion as well as for other reasons. More study would have quickly seen that fashion was one of the historical uses of tattoo. Tattoo has a meaning created by the wearer and a meaning created by the viewer.

Chalmers should have heeded Rush’s advice by choosing appropriate sources.

Chalmers disregards Rush's advice and relies on the wrong sources.

Though Chalmers threw a bone to GIlbert and Caplan, however Rush, Camphausen, di Folco and Groning are more important sources for Chalmers. She seems to have missed the part describing what sources are adequate for historical references and which for rich photography by not reading more of Rush.


There are many books and articles that provide an adequate history of mutilation, scarification, piercing, and tattooing, and I refer the reader to the recent works of Gilbert (2000), Caplan (2000), and Favazza (1996) as reference texts for bibliographic materials, and Mercury (2000), Robinson (1998), Groning (1997), and Camphausen (1997) for color and black-and-white photos. 
(Rush, 2005:17-18)

For example, Rufus C. Camphausen does not claim historical scholarship for his book, Return of the Tribal, but Chalmers does, using Camphausen, Groning and others for historical facts. Camphausen says he has a different purpose: to illustrate the expression of human creativity in text and images. Chalmers ignores page 1.


In this book I shall attempt to provide ample evidence, in text and images, that the great variety of practices aiming at adorning, beautifying, or even modifying the human body are the most ancient and most direct expression of human creativity, known and practiced all over the globe and at all times. (Camphausen p1)

These pages will show that the impulse to shape one’s body and one’s self in one’s own desired image, far from being something only for social outcasts, seems as intrinsic to being human as (self) consciousness, art, communication, and sexuality. p.2

To those with a prejudice against these practices, I would like to say that they are quite normal, once one looks at humanity as a whole…I would like to show the multidimensional background of these traditions in tribal societies of the past and present… p2

What we all need in order to live together on this small planet…respect for each other’s tastes, choices, wants, and needs. This includes respect for each other’s visions of beauty, each other’s ways to be sexually active, and each other’s manners of body adornment… p107

Chalmers uses these authors as sources but doesn’t seem to get the message of the words.

When Camphausen’s photos display body decoration, he emphasizes “one’s self in one’s own desired image” and looks at the affirming values while ignoring the historical use of tattoo as punitive and penal. He wants others to see body decoration as a positive human experience.

Chalmers also missed Jane Caplan’s Introduction to Written on the Body .

Jane Caplan writes in her Introduction that the essays contributed to Written on the Body represent a “scholarly retrieval and evaluation of historical sources…precise textural and cultural analysis.”  She describes what makes Written on the Body different from other “published literature” - (the kind that Chalmers uses).

Much of the recently published literature on tattooing is intended to illustrate the range and variety of tattooing in the past and present, and to ‘illustrate’ it literally, for images tend to outweigh text in these publications. The photographic images are usually of extremely high quality and the work of contemporary tattooists figures prominently, presenting a new aesthetics of the decorated body and proclaiming the tattoo’s arrival in commercial and popular culture. But the declared aim of this [the popular accounts] kind of publication is not the scholarly retrieval and evaluation of historical sources, nor the kind of precise textual and cultural analysis offered in the present collection of essays. Rather the recent popular accounts of tattooing make a virtue of synthesizing a broad history of tattooing, as Susan Benson points out in this volume (Chapter 14). They forge a chain of fixed historical and cultural markers in order to anchor and legitimize the practice, with the reasonable hope of rescuing tattooing from its dishonorable and penal reputation in the modern West by associating it with tribal cultures in which it has been socially integral, highly valued or aesthetically vital. Generalizing the tattoo as a meaningful historical and cultural performance is a way of reclaiming it for contemporary practice. p xii

Camphausen, di Folco, and Groning’s spectacular photo books are “popular accounts. It probably did not occur to Jane Caplan that a children's book also could be considered scholarly material.

Professor Rush, despite his spiritual messages not being reflected in Chalmers discourse, nevertheless is Chalmers' most referenced source in this part (8 times); Di Folco 6 times in the “history” section; and Mason 4 times.

This section is to be rejected as not meeting minimum academic standards.