Since it’s #nationalparkweek
here in the USA, here’s a photo of some Prickly Pear (genus Opuntia) cacti overlooking #zioncanyon
Cactus spines were used as tattoo tools by historic Native American groups throughout the American southwest. As part of recent research on a 2,000-year old tattoo tool from Utah, @andrewgillreathbrown and our own @lemurs_and_typewriters compiled around two dozen ethnographic descriptions of Native American tattooing in the Southwest from the early 20th century. Every account that identified which tools were used to tattoo included cactus spines. Every source that specified what cactus the spines came from lists the Prickly Pear!
The spines of cacti are actually highly-modified leaves, and depending on the type and species can be quite long (see the second image for some decent-size Opuntia spines**). Some cactus spines - including those of the prickly pear - are covered in tiny overlapping barbs that improve penetration while also making them more difficult to remove. This sounds pretty sketchy in the context of tattooing, but experimental efforts using pig skin have shown that the barbs strip off within the first five minutes of tattooing. Other recent work on human volunteers shows that, despite the barbs, there is relatively little skin tearing or trauma during that initial period.
**The spines in the second photo were harvested from private property with permission of the landowner. DO NOT EVER remove plants, flowers, artifacts, rocks, or any other natural or cultural resource from national parks or public lands.
#tattoo #tattoos #tattooarchaeology #tattoohistory #anthropology #archaeology #bodymodification #tattootools #handpoketool #cactustattoo #cacti
#Opuntia #nativeamericantattoo #experimentalarchaeology #handpoke #pricklypear #zion #nationalparks #utah #southernutah #zionnp #zionnationalpark