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Marquage corporel et signation religieuse dans l'Antiquité

Abstract :

By means of a systematic analysis of the documents available today, this study aims to question the religious significance regularly — and carelessly — attached to the body-marking practices in the Ancient world.

In the first part, we establish an inventory and localisation — in time and space — of the various indelible body-marking practices (tattooing, scarification, cauterisation) and a description of their three main — or “ordinary” — functions: 1) ornamental; 2) therapeutic-prophylactic; 3) marking of belonging and penal stigmatisation.

In the second part, after indicating a few rare cases of temporary markings with certain or probable religious purpose (Ancient Egypt in particular), we consider several ancient texts which subsequent historians have interpreted as referring to indelible ritual markings. We demonstrate that these practices cannot be associated with graeco-roman cults.

The second part take a new look at the problem of the baptismal denomination sphragis (seal). Contrary to what F. J. Dölger and other scholars believed, this denomination did not initially involve any tangible ritual of body-marking. In Middle Eastern countries, the body-markings practices still observable today among Christians (mainly tattooing) do not come from primitive Christianity; they perpetuate and adapt more ancient prophylactic procedures peculiar to various mediterranean populations who remained on the fringes of Graeco-Roman culture.

2005 John Jaffé Ph.D. Thesis Prize (Chancellerie des Universités de Paris)

Document type :
Complete list of metadatas
Contributor : Luc Renaut <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, April 22, 2008 - 11:33:29 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, January 31, 2019 - 1:56:11 PM
Long-term archiving on: : Friday, May 28, 2010 - 5:08:34 PM


  • HAL Id : tel-00275245, version 1



Luc Renaut. Marquage corporel et signation religieuse dans l'Antiquité. Histoire. Ecole pratique des hautes études - EPHE PARIS, 2004. Français. ⟨tel-00275245⟩



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