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Archaeology Lecture Series: The Ethnobotany of Tattooing

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Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center

1800 Weedon Drive Northeast

Saint Petersburg, FL 33702

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Join the Central Gulf Coast Archaeological Society (CGCAS) in partnership with the Alliance for Weedon Island Archaeological Research and Education (AWIARE) for his annual lecture series on the third Thursday of every month, spanning diverse archaeological topics.

This evening's speaker will be Dr. Anna Dixon, an instructor of Anthropology at USFSP. She was formerly Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Eckerd College and Archaeological Laboratory Director for Panamerican Consultants in Tampa. She is a medical anthropologist and ethnobotanist who has conducted fieldwork in Micronesia, Polynesia and North America.

The resurgence of interest in traditional tattooing, as well as concern about the safety of commercial inks, has led to a search for “natural,” “traditional,” products for tattoos. Scientific techniques for visualizing and analyzing ancient tattoos preserved on mummified human remains have been able to identify minerals and “pyrolized plant particles” (soot) in ancient tattoos, but not the plant taxa themselves. Ethnographic studies of traditional tattooing have focused largely on tattoo motifs, meaning and tool technology, with less emphasis on the botanical materials involved. While it is true that “soot” from burned plant material is the most common tattoo pigment, a variety of other plants were traditionally used to produce tattoos by either injecting colors under the skin or via the activity of irritant chemicals that produced tattoo-like marks. Indigenous peoples around the world have used a variety of plant substances to produce tattoos for therapeutic, decorative, commemorative or ritual reasons; the rarity of the tattooing plant itself sometimes also lent extra meaning and significance to the tattoo. This paper looks at tattooing plants cross-culturally, with a focus on Oceania and North America.



For questions about this program please contact Weedon Island Preserve at weedonisland@pinellascounty.org.

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Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center

1800 Weedon Drive Northeast

Saint Petersburg, FL 33702

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