The Eskimos are one of the few small nations that could preserve the ancient custom of tattooing to our time. This was due to the fact that among the primary motives for tattooing was medical and medical. Undoubtedly, this appointment was known to many peoples in their long historical way of creating cultural values-orientations (representatives of the Pazyryk culture knew the ability of point dashes-nakolok to reduce pain in the spine).
About the peculiarities of the tattoos of the Eskimos of the Chukchi Peninsula, we are aware of the research of a specialist in the field of ethnic tattoos of the peoples of the world. Rudenko. “In the summer of 1945,” he wrote, “while studying archaeological research on the Bering Sea coast of the Chukchi Peninsula, I visited all Eskimo villages. Unlike the coastal Chukchi, among the Eskimos I everywhere saw a tattoo both on the faces and on the hands, especially common among women.
In the north, in the vicinity of Cape Dezhnev, it is not complex: usually several vertical intermittent lines cover the chin; sometimes there are circles at the corners of the mouth. In the south, from Cape Chaplin to the village of Sirenik, a tattoo often occurs quite complex, with two lines running from the forehead along the nose, covering often both cheeks, chin, wrists and forearms. ”
Waiting for the ship in Providence Bay SI. Rudenko had the opportunity to make sketches of tattoos in the Eskimo village of Urelik, often visited by the Eskimos of other villages. And he was lucky. In Urelyk he met an Eskimo from all the southern villages and in a short time was able to do a lot of sketching.
Modern Eskimos preserved the custom of tattooing girls with the onset of puberty, before marriage. The applied patterns serve the generally accepted rules – the rite of a given ethnic group and at the same time, in our opinion, are an ornament. They respond to the current fashion and ideas about beauty and attractiveness for the opposite sex.
The technique of the Eskimo tattoo is simple: thread, rubbed with soot, is pulled under the skin. Long since the most difficult tattoo, an experienced woman has been doing for one, rarely – two days. Men rarely tattooed, most often their drawings were circles or semicircles on the cheeks or at the corners of the mouth, as well as short lines on the temples, and only one of the subjects had human figures (yuhak) on the forehead, above the eyebrows.
The tattoo of a woman is much richer and more diverse. Usually on the chin, from the lower lip down, there are three, five, seven double, rarely triple lines, this pattern was observed by Nelson in the Alaskan Eskimos. Two parallel lines, applied on the forehead between the eyebrows, descend downwards on both sides of the nose. Tattoo of cheeks is more difficult. There is no exact repetition of the pattern on both cheeks. As a rule, the right cheek is covered by a tattoo more complex than the left one. Sometimes only one cheek tattooed.
In the cheek tattoo from the temples to the corners of the lower jaw, three discontinuous parallel lines descend from which a more or less complex pattern is drawn to the ear and lower on the cheek. A less complex tattoo pattern on the left cheek is formed by “whale tails”, planted on broken lines, or more complex “whale tails” that turn into “horns”.
Between the cheek tattoo and the corners of the mouth, two-line half-gills (tutak) or mugs with a dot in the center are depicted.
On the hands of women, the tattoo covers the back surface of the palm, wrist and lower part of the forearm. The pattern is often covered both hands, but sometimes – only the right or left. From the wrist to the toes, along the middle of the brush, two lines of the line, slightly divergent towards the front end, are placed on which arches are attached, sometimes with circles and “whale tails”.
Despite seemingly, at first glance, a variety of drawings of hand tattoos, it always consists of a relatively small number of traditional elements inherent in Eskimo cutaneous painting. These are “whale tails”, planted on straight lines, arcs or circles, concentric circles and ellipses, scapulas, tridents, scrapers.
Speaking about the expansion of semantics and the motivation of the Eskimo tattoo, S.I. Rudenko stressed that earlier she undoubtedly had a magical meaning.
One of the most common, in his opinion, symbols of a tattoo was the V-shaped figure, commonly interpreted by the Eskimos as a “whale tail”, which was associated with a special attitude to the whale. This motif occurs in tattoos of the cheeks and hands of women, at the corners of the mouth – in men. The crows’ feet, depicted above the eyebrows, were of magical significance.
Tattoo, preserved to this day, practiced with the Eskimos almost two hundred years ago. Such persistence of the custom, absence of any evolution both in the general composition and in the individual elements of the drawing, despite the significant changes that have occurred during this time in the material culture and social life of the Eskimos, attest to the profound antiquity of this custom.
In pre-literate, mostly pre-state, period of its development, the primitive ethnos created a tattoo for thousands of years of history, which, apparently, will disappear only together with the human race, despite ups and downs in the development process. During the long evolutionary path, the cutaneous painting was defined in the general, ideological and ideological plan and in an applied concrete role assignment, which can be represented in the following directions:
1) as initiation into the circle of the “elect”;
2) as a sign of protection – a guard;
3) as a special, catchy mark for search and identification;
4) as a sign (symbol), possessing a cult-magical, sacral force;
5) as an element of the ritual of initiating (introducing) the deceased into the afterlife;
6) as a family-clan and personal, facsimile stroke (signature) – cliche (seal);
7) medical-therapeutic, preventive and cosmetic means;
8) as a kind of artistic creation.
From the perspective of the methodology of cognition, the tattoo was expressed more often than not by the mythological world outlook of a person, and also was a means of communication, “language.”