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Our final tattoo-related specimen for Object of the Week is this rather large portion of skin from the chest. Despite having little information on it, the magnificent artworks give us some clues as to its origins and owner’s life.
It is likely that this specimen came from a seafarer, because all of the tattoos are commonly associated with, and have significance for, sailors. A swallow could be tattooed for every 5000 nautical miles a sailor had travelled and also because they are known to migrate huge distances safely home. Snakes have a variety of meanings, but could signify power. Finally, a fully rigged ship showed that he had navigated around Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of South America. He was most likely American, as the flag on the ship is probably that of the United States. The ship is a clipper, and he probably sailed in one just like it.
A picture now emerges of an American sailor who had travelled for thousands of miles around the globe!