Sphenoid Bone or Space Bat?

BME’s geek tattoo section is a perennial favorite of visitors who would otherwise not visit a tattoo website, and contains some of the most interesting pieces, among them this sphenoid bone tattoo on my friend Pip:

She got it as a reward to herself after receiving her PhD; Pip writes:

I am a bone geek with two human bone-related degrees. The sphenoid is a fantastic bone, shaped like a butterfly, moth, or alien space bat depending on how you look at it. It is one of those objects that proves that nature can just create the most amazing works of art. I fell in love with the form of the sphenoid when I first saw one and spent a lot of time sketching and doodling sphenoids when I was learning cranial anatomy.

I liked the ambiguity of the shape, during my PhD studies I had come across a lot of art-historical theory about readers and super-readers, the gist being that depending on your level of knowledge, an image can carry different layers of meaning. This was particularly applicable to my chosen tattoo design: to the standard viewer, it would look like a gothic, gargoyle-esque butterfly; to the super-readers (i.e. bone geeks like me) it would be recognizable as a bone. It works too, I tested it out on a few osteology students at college and they recognised it instantly, whereas people at work need to be told what it really is! (Incidentally anatomists/doctors tend to be slightly confused, largely because they don’t understand what possesses someone to get a cranial bone tattooed on their back — or anywhere else for that matter).

Got an interesting tattoo? Email a high-res photo to submissions@bmezine.com.

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About Shannon Larratt

Shannon Larratt is the founder of BME (1994) and its former editor and publisher. After a four year hiatus between 2008 and 2012, Shannon is back adding his commentary to ModBlog. It should be noted that any comments in these entries are the opinion of Shannon Larratt and may or may not be shared by BMEzine.com LLC or the other staff or members of BME. Entry text Copyright © Shannon Larratt. Reproduced under license by BMEzine.com LLC. Pictures may be copyright to their respective owners. You can also find Shannon at Zentastic or on Facebook.

4 thoughts on “Sphenoid Bone or Space Bat?

  1. The following comments were imported from our old comment system:

    Posted on 03-31-2006 12:27:11 by keala
    i too am a bit of a bone geek after attending massage school and now osteopathy in canada. this is a beautiful tatoo! who is the artist? did you do it? thanks for sharing!

    Posted on 05-25-2006 15:57:44 by titanium angel
    The tattoo artist was Dave Bryant at Evil From the Needle in Camden, London, but I believe also guests somewhere in Canada quite often. The design was adapted from a photo in an osteology textbook

  2. I just got a back tattoo done by Dave of Evil from the needle. Had a totally different experience compared to you. I have to agree with you about the whole professionalism feel of the place though. I was so glad that I chose the place the moment I stepped into the shop. It was a design out of a book so that was straight forward. He was anything but unpleasant though. Tatooing took the most part of two hours during which we cracked jokes and chatted about the most random things. Even let me choose my own background music. My boyfriend was there to keep me company as well and but spent most of his time laughing along and reading out funny bits from the newspaper. Not once did Dave grumble even after I asked him to touch up a small bit of the design when he was done. Overall, he’s an awesome tattoo artist. Not a drop of blood and definitely recommended (this coming from a tattoo newbie). Nothing but a fun experience. Even the receptionist downstairs was wondering why she heard nothing but laughter while I was having it done. Already thinking about going back to get another one done by him…

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