The principal element in the [first kill] rite is the scarification of the boy. The purpose of this is to put into the boy's body, through little cuts in his skin, substances that, in !Kung belief, will make him a successful hunter. The scarifications remain visible on the skin for a lifetime; they show that the man has been "cut with meat". (Lorna Marshall, Nyae Nyae !Kung Beliefs and Rites 1999: 154).
The evening before I left, before the singing started, three of the great hunters took me off into the forest. They said they wanted to be sure that I would come back again, so they thought they would make me "of the forest." There was Njoho, the killer of elephants; his close friend and distant relative, Kolongo; and Moke, an elderly Pygmy who never raised his voice, and to whom everyone listened with respect. Kolongo held my head and Njobo casually took a rusty arrow blade and cut tiny but deep vertical flits in the center of my forehead and above each eye. He then gauged out a little flesh from each slit and asked Kolongo for the medicine to put in. . . [He rubbed the black ash-paste hard into the cuts until it filled them and congealed the blood that still flowed. And there it is today, ash made from the plants of the forest, a part of the forest that is a part of the flesh, carried by every self-respecting Pygmy male. And as long as it is with me it will always call me back (Colin Turnbull, The Forest People).Pygmy and Bushmen bodies are also painted for various reasons, including, of course, magic:
[Anjo] is a paste made from the heart, brain and eyes, sometimes from other parts as well, of some highly prized game. . . The paste is put on the body, most often the forehead, of the hunter and of members of his family (Turnbull, Wayward Servants, p. 155).While the line between scarification and tatooing is not always clear, one has the impression that tattooing in the sense that's usually understood, i.e., incising the body with specific pigments, is not practiced by either Pygmies or Bushmen, though it's not difficult to see how tattooing could have developed from a combination of body painting and scarification.
As at birth, there is a certain amount of decoration of the body with what might be considered as forest charms, and toward the end of the [Elima] festival the girls paint each other with a white forest clay (ibid., p. 135).
Pigment is still used for body painting among the few remaining Bushmen of the Kalahari in the context of rites of passage and other ceremonies central to the well being of the group (New perspectives on prehistoric art, by Günter Berghaus, p. 115).
In any case, examples of all three practices can be found in many different parts of the world:
Man with scarification marks -- Africa
Tembu Girls, early stages of scarification --Africa
Pygmy Woman with body painting and scarification.
Great Andamanese -- Scarification.
The great question has always been whether or not all or most of these traditions are related and, if so, how. If scarification and body painting were already established as traditions among HBP, can we assume all traditions of bodily decoration stem from the same source? As I see it: why not? What exactly would be the alternative explanation? Any thoughts?