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The distinction between religious rituals that involve tattooing or piercing of the body and cultural practices that include tattooing and piercing is often difficult to make as tattooing and piercing are common in rites of passage and as a mark of status and rank that may reflect spiritual prowess. Tattoos may also serve as a sign of religious devotion or as a talisman or amulet providing protection.

Tattooing is an ancient practice. Tattoos were found on the natural mummy of a man called Ötzi the Iceman, dating from 3300 BCE, which was found in a glacier in the Italian Alps in 1991. Tattooing was apparently practiced in Japan as early as 3000 BCE, as suggested by clay figurines put into tombs as attendants for the ...

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