Throwback Thursday! The Tattoo: Now You See It, Now You Don’t

https://commons.wikimedia.org/
wiki/File:Italian-tattoo-artist-at-work.jpg

We at AntiquityNOW are fascinated with the human condition. Indeed, our species is an ironical, obstinate lot. Our lifespans are but a blink of the eye, yet we are driven in many ways to secure our own immortality.

Through the ages tattoos have given us a canvas on which to announce our claims to tribes, clans, philosophies, ideas and art. Thousands of years may pass, but we are continuously enlightened and history informed by the tattoos defining ancient lives.

Modern lives as well seek the immortality of the ink. The tattoo industry has grown from a niche industry relying on the military, bikers and other seeming hardcore proponents to one whose stigma has diminished and been popularized to include…anyone. Today, 46 percent of Americans have at least one tattoo. (Italy ranks first on the popularity scale with nearly 50 percent of the population tatted at least once.) Millennials boast almost a 50 percent ink rate, and growing. Tattoos are a one-billion dollar industry with nearly 30,000 operating sites in the United States alone.[1]  

Recently, a new type of tattoo was announced by Ephemeral, which has studios in Brooklyn, Los Angeles and San Francisco.  A continuously moving ribbon on their website repeats the phrase “Regret Nothing” as either mantra or hypnotic suggestion. Thus, their customized tattoos are emphemeral, “Made to fade  in 9 to 15 months.” How does it work?

Permanent tattoos “are placed with a needle technique that penetrates the dermis, the lower part of the skin,” Dr. (Roy) Geronemus (director, Laser and Skin Surgery Center of New York) said. “Once the ink is deposited, there is an inflammatory response that surrounds the ink particles and creates a matrix that allows the ink to stay and not migrate or disappear on its own. It’s inflammatory cells that surround the ink and allow it to stay put.”

When you get a tattoo made of permanent ink, most of the ink remains where it is deposited. By contrast, Ephemeral’s ink is made of a material that the body naturally breaks down over time. The ink works in a similar way to biodegradable medical devices like stents used in implants or sutures used in stitches. These products, like the ink, are broken down naturally by available oxygen and water in the body.[2]

As tattoos have emerged in recent years as a popular art form, for many, the idea of art that fades is a travesty, even an existential debate.[3] For 24-year-old Joanna Acevedo, who has more than 100 tattoos on her body:

“I like the fact that they are permanent because they are part of me,” she said. “They represent a moment in time, and I like living with all my history.” She equates tattoos she doesn’t like to scars, another remnant, she said, from bad choices you made when you were younger.[4]

From that philosophical and personal view, let us hear from an artist of the form:

Sue Jeiven, a famed tattoo artist in Brooklyn who goes by Sweet Sue, said tattoo artists, like sculptors and painters, strive to make beautiful art that will last. “We spend our entire careers trying to figure out the mystery of how to get nice, clean, solid lines to lay in the skin perfectly and stay forever,” she said. “It makes me want to cry to see all this hard work just disappear.”[5]

But today’s tattoo statement can become tomorrow’s artwork anguish. According to advdermatology.com, tattoo remorse is a very real, yet very avoidable event. Their infographic depicts the body parts and images most regretted by people after a time. Their caution:

In you’e planning to get a tattoo, sleep on it. And not just for a night–at least a few months. That’s what we found when we surveyed 600 people with tattoo regret. The big takeaway: 3 out of 4 people who suffer from “tattoo regret” didnt plan for the tattoo beyond a few weeks.[6]

Tattoos bind us to our interior selves, and also to the saga of humanity. We all have stories to tell. Explore more with the links below:


Tattoos and the Body as Canvas | AntiquityNOW

Tattoos and the Body as Canvas: Erasing the Past With Modern Tattoos | AntiquityNOW

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Einkorn Banana Bread and the Tale of a 5,300 Year Old Mummy | AntiquityNOW (There is a tattoo mention here, we promise. Try the bread while you’re at it.)

[1] https://www.ibisworld.com/united-states/market-research-reports/tattoo-artists-industry/

[2] Disappearing Tattoos Set Off Existential Debate – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6]https://www.advdermatology.com/blog/statistics-surrounding-tattoo-regret/

Throwback Thursday! A Happy Halloween of Chills, Thrills and the Lure of the Unspeakable

Paris Zombie Walk, 8 October 2015, Creative Commons

We admit it. We at AntiquityNOW love Halloween. Who doesn’t like dressing up in a new persona, foraging for treats and menacing those who give us short shrift? Yes, it is the time of fun for children and for sociopaths…oops, that is, forever-young grownups.The last few years have seen a plethora of fiction about undead horror, and zombie costumes have become a Halloween staple. But the zombie zeitgeist has been reflected in some remarkably real-world scenarios these last few years. It has been a time of science, fear and mythology to rival any fictional work of pandemics, plagues and devious microbes. So let us reflect back on AntiquityNOW’s zombie trilogy to see how very close we have come to the fictions of now and ancient times, and why our species delights in the lure of the unspeakable.

Zombie Apocalypse, Part 1: The Lamentable History of Zombies

Zombie Apocalypse, Part 2: Zombies and Pop Culture

Zombie Apocalypse, Part 3: Emergency Preparedness and the End of Life As We Know It (We’re Not Kidding)

 

Gallery

On World Teachers’ Day AntiquityNOW Celebrates Knowledge Through the Ages

This gallery contains 15 photos.

Originally posted on AntiquityNOW:
The gift of knowledge comes in many forms.  Today we recognize those people who through the millennia have taught and inspired us, who have found a curious beauty in the unknown and who diligently pursue the…

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Gullah Bacon Corn Muffins and the Gullah Geechee Saga

Southern cuisine has deep roots in Africa. One of the most vibrant cultures contributing to the South’s identity was actually one that evolved from unintended diversity.

The Gullah Geechee is a distinct group descended from slaves brought from West Africa to the coastal areas of the South in the early 18th century.  They were instrumental in building the wealth of the southern states for decades. However, when the Civil War loomed, and fearing anti-slavery retribution, many plantation owners moved inland for safety reasons, leaving slaves to fend for themselves on the coast islands. Out of this circumstance grew the Gullah Geechee culture, one with unique community, spirituality, farming, music, crafts and cuisine.

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Throwback Thursday! Food on the Go, Pompeii Style

By Mosborne01 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Pompeii is still dishing up its surprises. In December 2020 a significant find was announced after the expansion of an excavation site of a thermopolium.  For those not familiar with Pompeian fast food, that’s an establishment, one of possibly 150 in Pompeii, that served up the best of takeaway and sit-down eats. Yes, Pompeii had its eat-as-you-go devotees as we do today.

By Jebulon – Own work, CC0

The recent excavation of the thermopolium has revealed exuberantly painted and finely detailed frescoes that have excited the archaeological world and given Pompeii another reason to be ranked among the most important of international treasures. Of particular note is that the uncovered frescos were no mere decoration adorning the walls and counter of the thermopolium. Rather, they served as menus depicting the popular dishes that could be purchased. Since many of the clientele were illiterate and from poorer populations, the pictures indicated food choices; customers merely had to point to pictures to order. To see what the excitement is all about, take a look at the colorful drawings of daily fare, including fish and fowl, here. Listen to Massimo Osanna, who is Director General of National Museums, Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, and Director of Pompeii, describe the importance of the frescoes. Then revisit our Bon Appetit Wednesday! blog for more fascinating facts on thermopolia, their status in Pompeian culture and the menus that whetted the appetites of their patrons. Finally, flaunt your culinary chops by whipping up a dish from a recipe we included for a Pompeian staple. Continue reading

Happy Valentine’s Day! How the Heart Became the Shape of Love

Today, we at AntiquityNOW commemorate that most wondrous of all human emotions: Love. On past Valentine’s Days, we have explored how love enters through the eyes and nose, how the brain on love is a power to behold (Robert Palmer does a cameo in this one) and even offered up an ancient Thai rose salad recipe to enjoy on this holiday. But being the curious afficionados of ancient history we are, we wondered, where did the heart-shaped symbol originate?

Ancient silver coin from Cyrene
depicting a seed or fruit of silphium.

As where many ancient secrets begin, let’s look at nature. There are numerous plants with blossoms or leaves in the shape of the symbol we now see as a heart.  But the one in history that is most relevant, had multitudinous uses in ancient times and is an eternal mystery to the science of propagation is silphium. Also known as silphion, laserwort, or laser, it was widely used by Egyptians, Knossos Minoans, Greeks and Romans as a seasoning, medicine and perfume.  And in a cheeky irony by Mother Nature, it was also popular as an aphrodisiac and a reportedly effective contraceptive. It grew naturally around the North African city of Cyrene (founded as Greek city in 631 BCE at what is now Shahhat, Libya), and was such an important trade item that Cyrenian coins displayed its heart-shaped seed or fruit. It was documented as literally worth its weight in gold.[1] From this description, it certainly appears to be a cure-all:

It was said to have short, thick leaves, tiny yellow flowers, and bulky, vigorous roots. The sap that oozed from the silphium plant was particularly aromatic and medicinal, at least by ancient standards. The wonder drug of its day, silphium was said to cure such maladies as tooth decay, warts, dog bites, stomach ailments, coughs, leprosy, and anal growths. But it was more valued for its use as a contraceptive…more specifically as an abortifacient. Ancient medical texts all repeat the claim that a pessary made of silphium sap was effective at “purging the uterus” to “bring forth menstruation”, all clever euphemisms for drug-induced abortions. In a society that placed a high value on legitimate heirs …, silphium’s (sic) became highly sought after as the first “morning-after” pill.[2]

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Throwback Thursday! Beer Archaeology?! Yes, please.

Travis Rupp has the coolest job. He is a self-proclaimed “beer archaeologist” and I want to hang out with him. Obviously, at AntiquityNOW, we think archaeology is pretty fascinating. Digging up ancient toilets? Sign us up. Excavating an ancient village? We’re there. Meticulously and tediously removing the dust from a single ancient coin? We’d love to help. But, not everyone finds the past so exciting. However, we’re willing to bet, nearly everyone can agree there is something amazing and fun about recreating the drinks of the past. Who doesn’t want to cheers with a Viking-inspired beer or raise a glass of “Beersheba” from ancient Israel? Check out this article from NPR for all of the delicious details about Rupp and his quest for antiquity’s most fabulous brews: Beer Archaeologists Are Reviving Ancient Ales — With Some Strange Results.

And don’t miss our very own article about ancient beer. Did you know “ancient history reveals that, as far back as 4,000 years ago (and probably further), brewing was done primarily by women?” True story. Learn more here.

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Einkorn Banana Bread and the Tale of a 5,300 Year Old Mummy

For those of you who haven’t heard of einkorn wheat, you’re at least 9,500 years behind the curve. Einkorn is the world’s oldest cereal and “nature’s original wheat.”1  

The Fertile Crescent in the Middle East is aptly known as the Cradle of Civilization, an area recognized for such innovations as glass manufacturing, writing and the wheel. It’s also where agriculture first began, and the first written recording in 7,500 BCE of einkorn being planted as a domesticated crop.

Einkorn flourished as a staple crop for centuries. It was hardy and could grow in poor soil, similar to other ancient grains such as smelt and emmer.  Research shows that einkorn cultivation spread across the Middle East, Europe and into Russia. In fact, agriculture where grain production was central was one of the propelling forces that caused cities to form and great civilizations to grow as people became less nomadic. Over time einkorn evolved into a popular and versatile food that knew no social class. Even the pharaohs ate einkorn. However, during the Bronze Age einkorn production declined in favor of grains that were more prolific and easier to harvest.  But a surprising twentieth century discovery revived interest in the wheat and put the grain at the center of a 5,300 year old cold case (to employ modern crime nomenclature and, as you will see, a shameless pun). Continue reading

Two Thousand Years and the Sexual Male: The Angst That Never Changes

Romantic scene from a mosaic (Villa at Centocelle, Rome,
20 BC–20 AD)

Sexuality. Exciting, erotic, passionate, heartbreaking. Perhaps no other human behavior is so fraught with identity, especially for men. In countless cultures throughout time, the sexual male has been idealized and his prowess pivotal in terms of his place in society. Of course, there were shifting sexual mores throughout the centuries, but male sexuality largely remained a highly prized trait regardless of culture, time or geography.  Today, with the advent of modern science and psychology, we now realize that male sexuality is weighted with conflicting emotional and societal consequences. More jarring to the traditional paradigm is the fact that male sexuality and the entitlement it bestowed are now being challenged.  We have the roles of heterosexual and LGBTQ men and women as well as non-gender conforming individuals evolving in the twenty-first century to inevitably create new paradigms of identity and new ways of relating to each other.

As we see below, however, some things haven’t changed, or at least make for interesting comparisons. Two poems, written thousands of years apart, speak to the anguish of a man facing the inescapable diminishing of years and the sexuality that defined him. Continue reading

Throwback Thursday! Ancient Advertising

When was the last time you sat through an entire commercial? Perhaps during the Super Bowl? With today’s DVR, Netflix, Hulu, etc., being forced to suffer through 3 minutes of advertising is a thing of the past. Advertisers have had to become more clever, even tricky, and some would say invasive, in order to get our attention. Now, their ads pop up on our social media feeds, web browsers and even our email. It seems we’ve dodged one type of sales pitch, only to be bombarded with dozens more! Surely this is a modern nuisance. Actually, it’s not. Check out our two part series, “How Advertising Helped Write History,” to learn all about how ancient salesmen hawked everything from olive oil to a date with a gladiator.