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Kunsten på Kroppen
The Art of Tattooing

Photos of tattoos,
and presentation of:
Kai Uwe Faust
Patricia Campos
Marcus Hammer
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Lejre 2001

Introduction  - Photos from the week  - Tattoos we did at Lejre  - People tattooed earlier  
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The Theories

We did again have a successful week at the Historical Research Center in Lejre close to Roskilde in Denmark. From July 28th till August 5th.

Our working theory was the following:

Tattooing was off course done without the modern electric tattoo machine way back in ancient times.

Ever since the bronze age people has been able to make needles. Bronze age in Scandinavia was about 1700-500 years B.C. As soon as they could make needles, they have probably used them in tattooing. We at Kunsten pa Kroppen has developed a technique that we imagine can have been used then. We are attaching a combination of needles to a small handle. Because of today's knowledge, the needles and handles can be sterilized. We as tattoo artists are off course always wearing rubber gloves and using disposable colours, etc. when tattooing today.

In prehistoric times, before the ability to make needles, it is our theory that people has used other forms of sharp, pointy objects. Such as rosethorns, fishbones or bird bones, etc. It is no problem that these "needles" can not be sterilized. The important issue is that the same rosethorn is never used twice, but is being disposed of between two customers. We call it with a slight smile: "Ecological Tattooing"
A piece of a branch with a rosethorn.

Flintstones has probably been too brittle to be of any use. Even up to our times, on the islands of the Pacific, like Samoa, pig teeth has been cut and made into comb like "needles", and used in tattooing.
Another technique is the Inuit technique where the tattoo is "sewed" on using needle and thread. The thread (often sinews) is dipped in colour, and is pulled through the skin with the needle. At the same time you press the spot with a finger, and that way it leaves a trace

As colour was often used soot from the lamps, or coal directly from the fire, that was churned very fine. Today we normally use ordinary tattoo colour. But we have also been using coal from the fires at Lejre, and with a fine result.

Erik is carefully selecting a rosethorn
that will be used as a needle for tattooing.

In many cultures and in many circumstances it has been the tribe's shaman who did the tribe's tattoos.

It seems obvious that the person who is in contact with the spirit world, is also the one to be knowledgeable in tattooing. To want to be tattooed is often a spiritual thing. Most of the time modern people do not speculate a lot on this, but I am sure there there is a lot deeper speculations behind most tattoos, than simply to "be very modern".

Mark working as our
authorized shaman

Tattooing is just the opposite of modern. Fashion changes all the time. But to choose a tattoo, is to make a decision that lasts for the rest of the life.

It is also natural to use some of the traditional shamanistic rituals to create a good feeling around the tattooing process itself.

Those who has experienced it, claims rather unanimously that it helped relieve some of the pain that is always present when being tattooed. The person that is tattooed floats on the slightly trancelike condition that comes out of the drumming and chanting.


In many places of the world the act of getting a tattoo, is something the whole family participates in. That may even be the case in a modern tattoo studio.
In these cases it is often cool for those who do not get tattooed, to participate by for instance drumming. Thus in Lejre, we invited the public to participate in that.
We dragged an old discarded hollowed treetrunk-boat up to where we were tattooing, and used it as a communal drum.

Some more photos from the shamanistic séances.



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