Burmese Tattoos (Part 1)

Burmese Tattoos Part 1 – Origin of Tattoos

This is Part 1 of multiple part article on Burmese Tattoos by Guest Author Mr. Markus Burman. 

[Important Read: Tattoo Risks, Right Precaution & How to Remove Tattoo]

In this article, I am not only writing about ‘Burmese tattoos’ but put this topic into the relevant historical and cultural context. Let us begin our journey into the realm of tattoos.

Discovery of Otzi (Oetzi) and his Tattoos

What do you remember from or know about the year 1991? Not much? Let me help you to remember. It was the year in which the 1st Gulf War began, the former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated and the Space Shuttle Columbia lifted off from Cape Canaveral to take Spacelab into the orbit. With respect to the topic of this article the most important event of the year 1991, was the discovery of ‘Oetzi’ the Iceman on 19 September 1991 in Europe. The extremely well-preserved mummy was frozen in ice high on the glacier of the Fineilspitze, a mountain in the Austrian Alps on the Austrian/Tyrolean (Italian) border at a height of 10.530 ft/3.210 m.

Now I can clearly see the question marks in your eyes and hear your questions for what on earth so-called Burmese tattoos have to do with a place in Europe, 4.140 nautical miles/7.670 kilometers away from Burma and who for God’s sake Oetzi’, the Iceman’ is. Do not get impatient I will give you the answers right now; you will be surprised.

Burmese Tattoos, Tattoo,Firstly, I will tell you who or what Oetzi’ is. Oetzi’ is the nickname Oetzi, because he was found in the Oetztal Alps) given to a middle-aged man (about 46 years old) who was most likely of higher status (he carried a copper axe with him what back then was a status symbol). His life found at some time between 3239 and 3105 BCE a violent end (because he was murdered) at the place where he (what is left of him) was found or in close vicinity to it. He (his mummy) is at the time of this writing some 5.300 years old and remains to this day a treasure trove of valuable information for scientists.

Now I will let you know what the connection between him and Burma is. ‘Oetzi’ is the so far oldest definite proof ever found that already in the copper age people wore tattoos because he had 61 of them spread over 19 parts (wrists, lower legs, lower back and chest, etc) of his body. Some sources speak of 49 tattoos, which was the first amount of tattoos that were found on him in 1991 when he was discovered. This number increased over time because more and more tattoos, which are sometimes barely visible against the dark background of the skin, were found. The last one was discovered in December 2015 what has increased the total count to 61.

Although there are connections in form of migrating and travelling people from Western Europe to central Europe Eastern Europe Russia and China (some mummies found in China are definitely Caucasian and Eurasian of European origin) I do by no means want to claim that the art of tattooing spread from Europe to Burma because it would – I think – be rather foolish to assume that tattooing originated at one specific place and started to spread throughout the world then and from there.

Archaeological findings that are hinting at the existence of tattoos have been reported from different places from all over the world what makes it more likely that at the very beginning tattooing started at different times and in different cultures independently from one another and spread from these regions and cultures into the respective neighbouring regions and cultures until there wasn’t any place on this planet left in which tattooing was not known and practised. No one will ever know how it really was but this is my idea of how it has most likely been.

Traditional Tattooing in Burma

burma, tattoos,
Taken circa 1956 [Flickr Photo: collection of old photos]
Into regions and cultures that do nowadays belong to those that make up Burma (since 1989 also called Myanmar), tattooing was introduced long after it was already an integral part of many cultures in other parts of the world.

I admit that at one time I have seriously contemplated getting a tattoo myself. I have, finally, decided against it for fear of health problems such as HIV and do not have one. The same goes for my wife, daughter, and grandson (OK, the latter is still much too small to be tattooed). But otherwise, I see them (the tattoos) every day. Everywhere and from morning to evening they are around me in all qualities and from monochrome to multi-coloured.

Read here! Tattoos Risks, Right Precaution & How to Remove Tattoo

Burmese – especially men – without at least one tattoo are a very rare thing to see for tattoos are an integral part of what is called ‘Burmese Culture’ and are much treasured by the predominantly highly superstitious Burmese people. That is why I have decided to write an article on Burmese tattoos.

All I knew about tattoos when I decided to write about them was that a tattoo is a picture that is more or less artfully inserted into the skin. Believing that that was all with respect to tattoos I assumed that to write about them would not be a big deal, I was afraid to even that I would not have enough stuff to fill a single page; far off the mark. To be sure, what I knew about tattoos was not wrong, but to think that was all that there is to know about it was. It was like believing that all that maths comprises of are the multiplication tables. Quickly I found out that there is much more to the topic ‘tattoo’ but, alas, only a few authentic, reliable and not easily to find sources (most of what you can see on the internet are plagiarism or copyright infringement) on the subject of tattoos and that tackling the topic ‘body art’ better known as ‘tattoo’ means to embark on a huge and vastly complex albeit tremendously interesting subject. Subsequently, this article isn’t meant to cover and explain everything about tattoos, tattooing, and related matters. I will confine myself in this article to what I deem the minimum needed to cover the topic tattoos, in general, and ‘Burmese Tattoos’, in particular, as brief as possible and as detailed as necessary.

Let’s go back to the very beginning of the topic ‘tattoo’, shall we? To me, the beginning means to, firstly, find answers to the general questions, which are when, where and why people started to get tattooed or to tattooing other people? [End of Part 1, continued in Part 2]

All of my books are available as Kindle eBooks on Amazon.

For more information visit my website http://www.realburmabyburman.com and my Mark Burman YouTube channel  http://www.youtube.com/user/BurmaByMarkBurman.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Markus_Burman/2114042

Continued in Part 2.


Guest Author, MarkusGuest Author @ TangyTalk: I am Markus Burman and am living since more than 25 years in Burma, since 1989 called Myanmar. I know the country, its people, culture and history very well what makes an authority on the subject of Burma/Myanmar. Born, educated and trained in Germany I have spent more than half of my professional life outside Germany. In 2012 I retired and turned full-time writer. Since then I divide my time between my family (wife, daughter, son in law and grandson) and my work as writer, which includes quite some travelling, researching and, yes, lots of writing.

I am writing exclusively on Burma and in my book series ‘This Is the Real Burma’ I have so far written and published four books in eBook format available on Amazon.


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