Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Post 2: Mayan Tattoo History - Christopher

Tatau was a common practiced art design by the Mayan culture. Popular skin decorations in mayan culture included ghosts and demons which mayans worshipped by creating statues and buildings and carving their images into there flesh. Also complex patterns and dots which were derived from nature and animals they would come in contact with were popular.

They were first discovered and documented by Spaniards conquistadors in 1519 who had until then never witnessed the ritual of tatau before. They believed them to be the work of the devil and related with satanic actions.

Tatau in mayan culture was to represent courage for the bearer and would bestow the belief of added power or abilities depending on the type of tatau that they were given. Certain animals or designs had different meanings and the tataus were not just for decoration but also for importance of belonging. It was a painful event so those with more tataus were considered braver and more powerful. After the ritual many would become sick due to the festering and infection that was brought on by the piercing of the skin.
Tatau was also used on criminals in mayan culture. When they were caught they would have there face marked as a sign of shame. Mayan women were tattooed from the waist up leaving out the breasts so they could still breast feed.

The mayan tatau culture still lives on in parts of South America were tribes still practice tatau and also in popular culture. "Lucky Tattoo" is a well known artist from South America that tattoos sailors, tourists and locals with traditional mayan, aztec and ancient mexican tatau.


  1. Awsome layout chris - it's presented beautifully.
    I didn't know that they were known to be satanic.
    I like the illustration sheet showing the meaning behind the symbols!