“How does one extract information about culture, about mind, from mute objects?” - Jules Prown (1982:7)
Most historians have been taught to study words and words alone. In order to learn from objects, however, a different methodology must be applied. Those studying material culture have had to look to other disciplines already specializing in object study for inspiration. Archaeology, art history and folklore, for example, are based on the study of material culture or remains. Over the last few decades, material culture scholars have applied a wide range of methodologies to describe, classify and interpret objects. Obviously, there is no one model that works for all objects. In fact, there are seemingly as many different methods as there are objects.
To study the tattoo, I have looked to four models of artifact analysis for inspiration. Although fairly simple in the steps they apply, all allow for a great deal of description and, more importantly, symbolic interpretation.
-image: 'Tatovor' Ole Hanson, Copenhagen, Denmark, 1952 (Schiffmacher 1996:165)-