For thousands of years, people have painted or scarred their bodies with fantastic and frightening patterns for all sorts of tribal rituals from dancing to getting married, from making war to making peace. They made themselves 'supra-natural' to represent themselves as demons, spirits or angels, or indicate their status within the community, according to a new book, Decorated Skin: a World Survey of Body Art by Karl Groning (Thames & Hudson, $760). The woman in this picture, taken from the book, is from Sudan. The scars are made by a skilled older woman, who raises the skin with a thorn and then makes fine incisions. Sometimes irritants such as dirt are inserted. Scarring, which can begin soon after birth or first menstruation, is very painful but those without these cicatrices are considered anti-social, outsiders or poor. In other communities men are similarly scarred to show their progress through manhood. In more recent years these amazing marks have featured in theatre and even live sculptures but the ancient rituals are performed on living persons from South America and Africa to Asia. The book shows through wonderful pictures the different forms of body decoration in tribal cultures, and explains the history and meaning behind the symbols.