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Tattooing - The Arctic's Magical Art

Archaeologists have dated a carved human figure that illustrates that tattooing was practiced in the Arctic as early as 3500 years ago.

Early Arctic cultures developed an intricate religion that centered on the belief in spirits. One way to survive in a forbidding world was by satisfying the spirits that controlled it, and tattooing became a tool in those efforts. It was believed that the indelible mark served as both a protective shield and a sacrifice to the supernatural.

Click for more information. The method of tattooing was to pass a needle under the skin, and as soon as it was withdrawn, its course was followed by a thin piece of material that had been dipped in oil and rubbed in soot.

For dots, a small sharp stick was dipped into oily soot and pricked into the pores of the skin.

Tattooing was broadly practiced by Inuit groups but was usually confined to women - the painful procedure produced patterns that were much admired by the men. Today, the traditional practise of this "magical art" has all but died out.

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Library: Inuit, Arctic
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