Hình xăm trong các nền văn hóa cổ xưa

Từ tiếng Anh “tattoo” (hình xăm) thường được cho là bắt nguồn từ “tatau” hoặc “tatu” của người Polynesia, có nghĩa là “đánh dấu một cái gì đó”.

Ngoài ra, đây còn là từ tượng thanh, mô phỏng những âm thanh phát ra từ các công cụ được sử dụng trong quá trình xăm mình. Mặc dù từ này mới chỉ có trong tiếng Anh (và các ngôn ngữ châu Âu khác) khi các cư dân của vùng Polynesia mang đến vài trăm năm trước đây, tattoo đã tồn tại lâu hơn trước đó nhiều, và có thể được tìm thấy trong nhiều nền văn hóa cổ đại.

Hình xăm của Ötzi

Những hình xăm đầu tiên được biết đến nằm trên cơ thể của những xác ướp được bảo quản tự nhiên thường được gọi là “Người đá Ötzi” . Xác ướp đông lạnh này được phát hiện tại khu vực biên giới Italy – Áo năm 1991, niên đại khoảng 5.200 năm tuổi.

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Một hình xăm chữ thập trên đầu gối của Ötzi (trái). Các nhà nghiên cứu lấy mẫu từ hông của người đá năm 2014 (phải). Ảnh: Samadelli Marco / EURAC

Có khoảng 57 hình xăm khác nhau trên các xác ướp, bao gồm dấu chấm, thánh giá nhỏ, và đường thẳng. Các hình xăm phân bố có vẻ ngẫu nhiên, một số dấu chấm và thánh giá ở dưới thắt lưng, một số đường thẳng phía trên thận, và một số đường song song trên mắt cá chân của xác ướp.

Hình xăm của Ötzi có thể đã có một chức năng trị liệu vì những khu vực mà hình xăm được tìm thấy tương ứng với các khu vực thoái hóa. Một giả thuyết được đặt ra là người chữa bệnh theo lối cổ đã tạo các vết rạch trên da ở khu vực bị đau, đắp dược liệu lên vết thương, và sau đó đốt nó bằng một dụng cụ kim loại hơ nóng. Kết quả là dược liệu hóa than ngấm vào các vết sẹo tạo thành hình xăm. Đây là phương pháp điều trị đau thấp khớp đã được người Berber ở khu vực miền núi phía Bắc châu Phi sử dụng trong nhiều thế kỷ.

Xăm hình Ai Cập

Một ví dụ khác về việc sử dụng các hình xăm của người cổ đại có thể được tìm thấy trong các nền văn minh Ai Cập cổ đại. Cơ thể và chân tay của một số bức tượng nhỏ có niên đại khoảng 4000 – 3500 trước Công nguyên được trang trí với các hình xăm. Ngoài ra, một số phụ nữ được vẽ trong các khu mộ cũng cho thấy là đã có hình xăm. Bằng chứng rõ nhất về hình xăm ở thời Ai Cập cổ đại là từ nhiều xác ướp phụ nữ khoảng năm 2000 trước Công nguyên. Trước khi khám phá ra Ötzi, đây là những hình xăm đầu tiên được biết trên cơ thể người thật.

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Xác ướp ở Bảo tàng Anh. Ảnh: Acient Origins

Các hình xăm trên những xác ướp này có thể được tìm thấy trên bụng, đùi và ngực của họ, do đó một số học giả cho rằng những hình xăm là dấu hiệu của gái mại dâm. Những người khác tin rằng những hình xăm đã có nghĩa là để bảo vệ phụ nữ khỏi các bệnh lây truyền qua đường tình dục. Ngoài ra, những hình xăm có thể coi như là một hình thức bảo vệ trong khi mang thai và lâm bồn của phụ nữ. Các nhà khoa học phát hiện thấy trên đùi của xác ướp có những hình xăm nhỏ mô tả thần Bes, vị thần bảo hộ thai phụ.

Hình xăm của Trung Quốc và Nhật Bản cổ đại

Ở một số nơi trong thế giới cổ đại, hình xăm không có chức năng như bùa hộ mệnh mà là dấu vết của sự xấu hổ và nhục nhã. Ví dụ như ở Trung Quốc và Nhật Bản cổ đại, những người phạm trọng tội thường bị khắc hình xăm lên mặt.

Theo Khổng Tử, cơ thể được coi như một món quà của cha mẹ, nên bất kỳ sự cắt xén cơ thể nào, bao gồm cả việc xăm mình, đều bị coi là man rợ. Xăm hình tội phạm là một án chung thân, những người phạm tội này bị đẩy ra ngoài rìa của xã hội trong suốt cuộc đời còn lại cùng với hình xăm đó.

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 Lưng của một người xăm hình. Ảnh: Public Domain

Lịch sử hình xăm Hy Lạp

Hình xăm cũng được một số xã hội cổ xưa sử dụng để đánh dấu quyền sở hữu. Sử gia người Hy Lạp Herodotus đã viết về việc người dân thành Thebes đầu hàng quân Ba Tư trong trận Thermopylae đã bị xăm hình bằng sắt nung như sau: “Theo lệnh của vua Xerxes, rất nhiều người trong số họ, bắt đầu với viên chỉ huy Leontiadas, đã bị xăm hình bằng triện của nhà vua”.

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