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December 2016

African Scarification

Author Affiliations
  • 1The University of Texas Medical Branch School of Medicine, Galveston
JAMA Dermatol. 2016;152(12):1353. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2016.0086

In Africa, scarification has served as an important element of the culture of different groups. Scarification involves placing superficial incisions on the skin using stones, glass, knives, or other tools to create meaningful pictures, words, or designs. This permanent body modification can communicate a plethora of cultural expressions. From Ethiopia to Papua New Guinea, scarification produces scars of different sizes, shapes, and positions to show clan identity, status within a community, passage into adulthood, or spiritual significance.