According to Daniel Ludlow, the Amlicites evidently felt the need of marking themselves so their new allies, the dark-skinned Lamanites, could identify them as these two groups battled against the Nephites. Thus the Amlicites "marked themselves with red in their foreheads after the manner of the Lamanites" (Alma 3:4).
This statement has two possible interpretations:
(1) the Lamanites had red skin so the Amlicites marked themselves with red, or
(2) the Lamanites marked themselves with red, and the Amlicites imitated them by marking
themselves with red.
Regardless of which interpretation is correct, this statement may provide a cultural link concerning the painted war faces among this people which continued to the coming of the white man some 1600 years later. [Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, pp. 194-195]
According to Verneil Simmons, the Lamanite life-style apparently included certain customs such as body paint and possibly tattooing. Much archaeological evidence exists which verifies that both customs were practiced among the Maya before the arrival of the Spanish:
"Until marriage, young men painted themselves black (and so did warriors at all times); tattooing and decorative scarification began after wedlock, both men and women being richly elaborated from the waist up by these means."--The Maya, Michael D. Coe, p. 144.
The famous Bonampak murals depict human figures with bodies painted black. Figurines frequently show paint and face and body tattooing. The Spaniards eliminated this practice among the people by converting them to Christianity. [Verneil W. Simmons, Peoples, Places, and Prophecies, p. 279]