Historic Scarification

The earliest evidence of scarification is the archaeological site at Ain Ghazal, in Jordan, where two headless figurines of Paleolithic (8000 B.C.E.) fertility goddess statues were found with thick scarification lines curving around the buttocks and abdomen. The Sahara rock painting (c. 7000 B.C.E.) at Tassili N'Ajjer at Tanzoumaitak, Algeria, also depicts scarification on the breasts, belly, thighs, shoulders, and calves of a Horned Goddess. Similar scarification designs as depicted on the figurines and paintings have been found on females from West and Central Africa.

The significance of the scarification process and resulting scars varies from culture to culture. Historically, scarification has been practiced in Africa, Australia, Papua New Guinea, South America, Central America, and North America. Among the cultural groups in these areas scarification has been used to emphasize the permanency of social and political roles; ritual and cultural values; rites of passage and age-grades; eroticizing the body; promoting sexual attraction and enhancing sexual pleasure; group and cultural identity; spiritual relationships; and aesthetic values. It has also been used as part of medicinal and healing rituals, as well as demonstrating the ability to endure pain. As a result of changing cultures and globalization, most of these scarification practices have been outlawed or banned by local governments.

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