Sculpture of a tattooed penis Palaeolithic age
Photo: Liberation

Men in prehistoric Europe used to scar, pierce and tattoo their private parts with circles, lines and triangles, mainly for rituals and social reasons, according to a new study.

In the latest issue of the Journal of Urology, scientists brought evidences from the analysis of phallic decorations in Palaeolithic art that our ancestors in Spain and France used male genital tattooing, piercing and scarification for ornamental reasons.

The research may also show evidence of the world's first known surgery performed on a male genital organ, according to Discovery News.

Javier Angulo, who along with Marcos García-Díez and Marc Martínez authored the research, has examined male genital representations in portable sculpture made in Europe approximately 38,000 to 11,000 years ago.

"[People] may feel that scars are a written story on the skin," Angulo told Discovery News

"Making scars, holes to pick bones, and also writing on the skin -- tattooing -- may add meaning to an otherwise 'silly body,'" he added. "If one or several marks became popular or fashionable, they may be culturally elected as 'fancy' and 'desirable.' The face and areas around natural orifices are parts of the body with a higher tendency to be decorated and shown."

The most ancient sculpture was found in the Volgherd cave in Germany 30,000 years ago. But it was mostly during the Magdalenian Era, around 12,000 years ago, that "Phallic Art" became prevalent among men. "That could be part of a cultural phenomenon related to a concrete time and space," Angulo told Angulo. According to the research, decorations show lines (70 per cent of objects), plaques (26.7 per cent), dots/holes (23.3 per cent) or even human/animal forms (13.3 per cent). Some designs appear to match those of figures seen within Palaeolithic cave art from the same regions.

"It is widely understood that these designs are part of an unknown code," Angulo said.

The scientist points out that the sculptures often show sexual organs in erection, as the primitive people used to link the sexual power to the act of carving, scarring, piercing and tattooing their private parts