Ancient Britons, 19th-century artwork

Ancient Britons, 19th-century artwork

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Credit: PAUL D STEWART/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Ancient Britons, 19th-century artwork. This representation of Ancient Britons is greatly influenced by De Bry's image of the Picts from 1588. The zodiac and classical images are very unlikely, but the peoples of Ancient Europe did use paints and tattoos to decorate their bodies. In particular the blue dye woad (from the plant Isatis indigotica) has been cited, though it is too caustic to use for tattoo ink. Julius Caesar reported (in 'De Bello Gallico') that the Britanni used to colour their bodies blue with 'vitrum' (glass), which probably refers to blue woad. The northern inhabitants of Britain came to be known as Picts (Picti), meaning 'painted ones' in Latin. This engraving by J. Chapman dates from 1804 and was prepared for 'Encyclopaedia Londinensis' (Universal Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Literature), published in London between 1810 and 1829.

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