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Ink is Forever: The Archaeological Impermanence and Cultural Permanence of Tattooing



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Daly, Leanne M. 


The Archaeology-Heritage Divide consists of divisions that are derived from the dichotomy of tangible versus intangible cultural heritage. Archaeology is seen as the material beginning of human history, yet heritage not only fills gaps in the archaeological record but continues where archaeology leaves off. This continuum between archaeology and heritage is exemplified in tattooing. Tattooing generally presents the unique inversion of permanence (conventionally characteristic of archaeology and material culture) and impermanence (conventionally characteristic of heritage). Tattooing is perceived as a culturally permanent marking of the skin but is archaeologically impermanent due to the transience of human bodies and the process itself. This inversion exposes how nothing ever really belongs on one side of the Divide. These divisions are simply pragmatic constructs allowing scholars to isolate and make sense of certain data. In actuality, there is an interdependence between the disciplines, and it is impossible to truly extricate one from the other.



tattooing, impermanence, cultural permanence, tangible and intangible heritage

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Rethinking the Archaeology–Heritage Divide

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