Pens and Needles: History's Strangest (and most useful?!) Tattoos

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If Momma refuses to let you spend your allowance at the tattoo parlor, maybe you should drop some history, and let her know just how "useful" a tattoo can be.

Tattoos as Telegraphs
The Tattoo: secret messages
The Tattooed: slaves
The Reason: It beats paying for postage
According to Greek Historians, back in 312 BC, Greeks used to shave the hair off their slaves, tattoo a message into the back of their heads, and then wait for the locks to grow back. Once the message was all covered in hair, they'd pack the slave off, and send him running.

ink-8427.jpegTattoos for Mercy
The Tattoo: a crucifixion scene
The Tattooed: troublemakers in the British Navy
The Reason: To get out of being whipped
There's a reason Eminem and Snoop both suited up for their court appearances. Similarly, British mischief-makers used to get "Jesus on the cross" inked onto their shoulders to make themselves seem like upstanding citizens. That way, if a religious captain was somehow moved by the WWJD message, he might drop the whip in favor of a lesser punishment.

miketyson.jpgTattoos to Intimidate Boxers

The Tattoo: A tribal-looking thing
The Tattooed: Mike Tyson's face
The Reason: To honor the Mayans?
Claiming he was into history, Iron Mike made the unfortunate mistake of telling reporters that his new face tattoo was a Mayan New Zealand symbol. The fact that Mayans aren't really from New Zealand didn't stop his enthusiasm. Of course, history is the least of Mike's concerns. According to Sports Illustrated, the former heavyweight is currently trying to fight women in the ring.

valpop1.jpgTattoos as Punishment
The Tattoo: a vagina on the forehead
The Tattooed: lusty Indian priests
The Reason: To make an example of 'em.
If you thought laws were severe in Texas, any priest caught with his trousers down in ancient India got a "little girl" branded into his noggin.

tatoo-golden-palace.jpg Tattoos as Billboards
The Tattoo: GoldenPalace.Com, also on the forehead
The Tattooed: Karolyne Smith
The Reason: Cash money
In need of some quick cash, Karolyne Smith did the first thing any enterprising young American would do, and auctioned off her forehead on e-Bay. After 27,000 visits, online casino GoldenPalace.com outbid everyone with a cool $10,000 offer. Each letter on her forehead is an inch high, and the terms are that she has to leave it there permanently. Still, it beats having a vagina on there.

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February 23, 2007 - 4:00am
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