(Roughly) Daily

Carrying the World on Your Shoulders: It’s All About the Ink, Part Two…


Tattoos have been with us since Prehistoric times; indeed, early tattoos were a kind of prehistory:  for example, 5th century BCE Iron Age corpses found preserved in frozen tombs (on the Ukok plateau in the Altai mountains in Siberia) are festooned with depictions of hunting and prey. Tattoos have been capturing world views and memorializing events (along with more personal passions, of course) ever since.

For much of the modern era in the West, tattoos were the preserve of outliers (e.g., seamen) and outlaws– until the latter half of the 20th century: in 1936, only 6% of Americans had a tattoo; in 2003, that percentage had risen to 16%; and by 2008, 36% of Americans 18 to 25 had a tattoo, rising to 40% for 26- to 40-year-olds.

As tattoos have become more common, their subjects have become more varied.  Part One of “It’s All About the Ink” looked at mathematically-themed tattoos.  But what about the physical world?

Our old friends at Strange Maps look at cartographic tattoos



As we contemplate getting from here to there, we might send thoughtful birthday greeting to the co-founder of Western philosophy, Socrates; today’s date– June 4– is the best guess* as to the date of his birth in 469 BCE.

I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.

– Socrates, quoted by Plutarch


* Socrates’s birthday was specified by Apollodoros the Chronographer:  the fourth year of the 77th Olympiad, the Archonship of Apsephionos, the Sixth day of the Attic Month Thargelion (i.e. the birthday of the goddess Artemis).  Athenian months ran from New Moon to New Moon (roughly mid month to mid month), so Thargelion overlapped May and June. The Julian date was established by Eusebius.  (All this said, lunar calendars were sufficiently inaccurate– and Greeks, sufficiently unconcerned with precise birth records– that it was common practice to ascribe all children born in a twelve-month cycle the same “birthday,” which was actually just a “birth-year”; even then, some historians suggest that Socrates was born in 470 BCE, not 469.)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 4, 2012 at 1:01 am

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