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Ancient Polynesians used obsidian tools to tattoo

15 obsidian artifacts found in the Solomon Islands suggest that the ancient islanders used them to tattoo.

One potential way to learn more about prehistoric tattooing is to unearth the tools used to make the markings. However, until now, archaeologists had discovered few ancient tattooing implements, likely because perishable materials were often used to make them, said study co-author Robin Torrence, an archaeologist at the Australian Museum in Sydney.

Torrence and her colleagues focused on prehistoric tattooing in the Pacific, in hopes of learning more about the practice in relation to wider social changes in the region. “Tattooing is a very important cultural practice in the Pacific even today,” Torrence told Live Science. “In fact, the English word ‘tattoo’ comes from a Pacific Polynesian word: tatau.”

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Story: Charles Q. Choi, Live Science | Photo: Kononenko et al/Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports

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