Top 30 body parts

This bar chart, based on data downloaded from the Digital Panopticon, indicates the top 30 parts of the body where tattoos were located. Note that body parts have been categorised according to the language in the original documents, which do not consistently document whether a tattoo was on the right or left-hand side of the body. Nor is the level of specificity consistent, so 'arm' is not consistently distinguished from 'forearm'. The data, therefore, include separate categories for 'left forearm', 'right forearm', 'left arm', 'forearm', 'arm', 'elbow' etc. The terms 'right specifier' and 'left specifier' refer to body parts where the automated parsing was unable to determine the specific body part referred to.

The data on the horizontal axis are provided on a logarithmic scale, which means the numbers do not increase on a linear scale, but rather increase more rapidly, by increments of a factor of (in this case) 10. Thus while a bar across half of the table indicates 100 cases, a bar across the whole table indicates 10,000 cases.

The fact that the left-hand side of the body contained more tattoos than the right-hand side may indicate the practice of self-tattooing. The fact that all the top 30 body parts are on the upper part of the body may reflect a preference for visible tattoos, or it may result from recording practices, as it is not clear whether features on the lower parts of the body were routinely recorded (convicts were often only stripped to the waist). The tattoo designs on 'private' and 'public' parts of the body are compared in another visualisation.

Credit: Sharon Howard

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