Contained below is a brief history of the Tattoo. I found this
interesting, so I have placed it here for your enjoyment.
for the full
article you can go to Designboom
the word tattoo is said to has two major derivations- from the polynesian
word ‘ta’ which means striking something
and the tahitian word ‘tatau’ which means ‘to mark something’.
the history of tattoo began over 5000 years ago and is as diverse as the
people who wear them.
tattoos are created by inserting colored materials beneath the skins
surface. the first tattoos probably were created
by accident. someone had a small wound, and rubbed it with a hand that was
dirty with soot and ashes from the fire.
once the wound had healed, they saw that a mark stayed permanently.
despite the social sciences' growing fascination with tattooing, and the
immense popularity of tattoos themselves,
the practice has not left much of a historical record.
in 1991, a five thousand year old tattooed man ‘ötzi the ice man’ made the
headlines of newspapers all over the world when
his frozen body was discovered on a mountain between austria and italy.
this is the best preserved corpse of that period ever found. the skin bears
57 tattoos: a cross on the inside of the left knee,
six straight lines 15 centimeters long above the kidneys and numerous
parallel lines on the ankles.
the position of the tattoo marks suggests that they were probably applied
for therapeutic reasons (treatment of arthritis).
in 1948, 120 miles north of the border between russia and china, russian
archeologist sergei rudenko began excavating
a group of tombs, or kurgans, in the high altai mountains of western and
southern siberia. mummies were found that date
from around 2400 years ago. the tattoos on their bodies represent a variety
the griffins and monsters are thought to have a magical significance but
some elements are believed to be purely
decorative. altogether the tattoos are believed to reflect the status of the
written records, physical remains, and works of art relevant to egyptian
tattoo have virtually been ignored by earlier egyptologists
influenced by prevailing social attitudes toward the medium.today however,
we know that there have been bodies recovered
dating to as early XI dynasty exhibiting the art form of tattoo. in 1891,
archaeologists discovered the mummified remains
of amunet, a priestess of the goddess hathor, at thebes who lived some time
between 2160 BC and 1994 BC.
this female mummy displayed several lines and dots tattooed about her body -
grouping dots and/or dashes were aligned into
abstract geometric patterns. this art form was restricted to women only, and
usually these women were associated
with ritualistic practice. the egyptians spread the practice of tattooing
throughout the world.the pyramid-building third and fourth dynasties of
developed international nations with crete, greece, persia, and arabia. by
2,000 BC the art of tattooing had stretched out all the
way to southeast asia . the ainu (western asian nomads) then brought it with
them as they moved to japan.
the earliest evidence of tattooing in japan is found in the form of clay
figurines which have faces painted or engraved to
represent tattoo marks. the oldest figurines of this kind have been
recovered from tombs dated 3,000 BC or older, and many
other such figurines have been found in tombs dating from the second and
third millennia BC.
these figurines served as stand-ins for living individuals who symbolically
accompanied the dead on their journey into the
unknown, and it is believed that the tattoo marks had religious or magical
significance.the first written record of japanese tattooing is found in a
chinese dynastic history compiled in 297 AD. the japanese were interested in
the art mostly for its decorative
attributes, as opposed to magical ones. the horis - the japanese tattoo
artists - were the undisputed masters. their use of colors,
perspective, and imaginative designs gave the practice a whole new angle.
the classic japanese tattoo, is a full body suit.
from southern china the practice spread along the silk route.
in pacific cultures tattooing has a huge historic significance. polynesian
tattooing is considered the most intricate and
skillful tattooing of the ancient world. polynesian peoples, believe that a
person's mana, their spiritual
power or life force, is displayed through their tattoo. the vast majority of
what we know today about these ancient
arts has been passed down through legends, songs, and ritual ceremonies.
elaborate geometrical designs which were often
added to, renewed, and embellished throughout the life of the individual
until they covered the entire body.
in samoa, the tradition of applying tattoo, or ‘tatau’, by hand, has long
been defined by rank and title, with chiefs and their
assistants, descending from notable families in the proper birth order. the
tattooing ceremonies for young chiefs, typically conducted at
the onset of puberty, were elaborate affairs and were a key part of their
ascendance to a leadership role.
the permanent marks left by the tattoo artists would forever celebrate their
endurance and dedication to cultural traditions.
the first europeans who set foot on samoan soil were members of a 1787
french expedition. they got a closer look at the natives
and reported that ‘the men have their thighs painted or tattooed in such a
way that one would think them clothed,
although they are almost naked’. the mythological origins of samoan
tattooing and the extraordinary cross-cultural history
of tatau has been transported to the migrant communities of new zealand, and
later disseminated into various international
subcultures from auckland to the netherlands.
the hawaiian people had their traditional tattoo art, known as ‘kakau’. it
served them not only for ornamentation
and distinction, but to guard their health and spiritual
well-being.intricate patterns, mimicking woven reeds or other natural forms,
graced men's arms, legs, torso and face. women were generally tattooed on
the hand, fingers, wrists
and sometimes on their tongue.
the arrival of western missionaries forced this unique art form into decline
as tattooing has been discouraged or forbidden by
most christian churches throughout history.
the maori of new zealand had created one of the most impressive cultures of
all polynesia. their tattoo, called ‘moko’, reflected their
refined artistry - using their woodcarving skills to carve skin.the
full-face moko was a mark of distinction, which communicated
their status, lines of descent and tribal affiliations. it recalled their
wearer's exploits in war and other great events of their life.
borneo is one of the few places in the world where traditional tribal
tattooing is still practiced today just as it has been for
thousands of years. until recently many of the inland tribes had little
contact with the outside world.
as a result, they have preserved many aspects of their traditional way of
life, including tattooing.
borneo designs have gone all around the world to form the basis of what the
western people call ‘tribal’.
india / thailand
hanuman in india was a popular symbol of strength on arms and legs. the
mythical monk is still today one of the
most popular creations in thailand and myanmar. they are put on the human
body by monks who incorporate
magical powers to the design while tattooing. women are excluded because
monks are not allowed to be
touched by them and because thais believe women do not need the extra boost
as they are already strong enough on
in africa, where people have dark skin, it is difficult to make coloured
tattoos as we know them.
but they want to be tattooed anyway, so they have developed another
technique - they make scarifications (this is not really
tattooing, but it is related to tattooing). made by lifting the skin a
little, and making a cut with a knife or some other sharp thing
special sands or ashes were rubbed in to make raised scars in patterns on
the body, it can be felt like braille lettering...
these patterns often follow local traditions.
ancient greece and rome
the greeks learnt tattooing from the persians.their woman were fascinated by
the idea of tattoos as
exotic beauty marks.the romans adopted tattooing from the greeks. roman
writers such as virgil, seneca, and galenus reported that
many slaves and criminals were tattooed. a legal inscription from ephesus
indicates that during the early
roman empire all slaves exported to asia were tattooed with the words ‘tax
greeks and romans also used tattooing as a punishment. early in the fourth
century, when constantine became roman emperor
and rescinded the prohibition on christianity, he also banned tattooing on
face, which was common for convicts, soldiers, and gladiators.
constantine believed that the human face was a representation of the image
of god and should not be disfigured or defiled.
were a tribal people who moved across western europe in times around 1200
and 700 B.C. they reached the british Isles around
400 B.C. and most of what has survived from their culture is in the areas
now known as ireland, wales and scotland.
celtic culture was full of body art. permanent body painting was done with
woad, which left a blue
design on the skin. spirals are very common, and they can be single, doubled
or tripled. knotwork is probably the most recognized form
of celtic art, with lines forming complex braids which then weave across
themselves. these symbolise the connection of all life.
step or key patterns, like those found in early labyrinth designs, are seen
both in simple borders and full complex mazes.
much in the way that labyrinths are walked, these designs are symbolic of
the various paths that life’s journey can take.
central and south america
in peru, tattooed inca mummies dating to the 11th century have been found.
16th century spanish accounts of mayan tattooing
in mexico and central americareveal tattoos to be a sign of courage.when
cortez and his conquistadors arrived on the coast of mexico
in 1519 they were horrified to discover that the natives not only worshipped
devils in the form of statues and idols,
but had somehow managed to imprint indelible images of these idols on their
skin. the spaniards, who had never heard of tattooing,
recognized it at once as the work of satan.the sixteenth century spanish
historians who chronicled the
adventures of cortez and his conquistadors reported that tattooing was
widely practiced by the natives of central america.
early jesuit accounts testify to the widespread practice of tattooing among
among the chickasaw, outstanding warriors were recognized by their tattoos.
among the ontario iroquoians, elaborate
tattoos reflected high status. in north-west America, Inuit women's chins
were tattooed to indicate marital status
and group identity.
the first permanent tattoo shop in new york city was settled up in 1846 and
began a tradition by tattooing military servicemen
from both sides of the civil war. samuel o'reilly invented the electric
tattooing machine in 1891.
during the time of the old testament, much of the pagan world was practicing
the art of tattooing as a means of deity worship.
a passage in leviticus reads: ‘ye shall not make any cuttings on your flesh
for the dead nor
print any marks upon you’. (19:28) this has been cited as biblical authority
to support the church's
position. biblical scholar m.w. thomson suggests, however, that moses
favored tattoos. moses introduced tattoos as a way to
commemorate the deliverance of the jews from slavery in egypt.
it is very likely that the vikings were tattooed. at around year 1100 the
arab ibn fadlan described a
meeting with some vikings. he thought them very rude, dirty - and covered
explorers returned home with tattooed polynesians to exhibit at fairs, in
lecture halls and in dime museums,
to demonstrate the height of european civilization compared to the
after captain cook returned from his voyage to polynesia tattooing became a
tradition in the british navy.
by the middle of the 18th century most british ports had at least one
professional tattoo artist in residence.
in 1862, the prince of wales, later to become king edward VII, received his
first tattoo - a jerusalem cross - on his arm.
he started a tattoo fad among the aristocracy when he was tattooed before
ascending to the throne.
in 1882, his sons, the duke of clarence and the duke of york were tattooed
by the japanese master tattooist, hori chiyo.
in the 18th century, many french sailors returning from voyages in the south
pacific had been tattooed.
in 1861, french naval surgeon, maurice berchon, published a study on the
medical complications of tattooing.
after this, the navy and army banned tattooing within their ranks.
stereotypical and sensationalized association of tattoo design
sailors on their ships returned home with their own tattoos... usually of a
very basic style that only uses a minimum amount
of details making the tattoos look quite two dimensional and flat. this
often gives a cartoonish feeling and typical motifs would be flowers,
hearts, mermaids, ships, anchors, snakes, birds, and names.
for a long time, tattooing was the preserve of sailors and... criminals!
in prison, the tattoo - professionally done and homemade- indelibly imprint
on their bodies what these men desire in their
souls: autonomy and identity. the ultimate symbol for gang members are their
getting a permanent mark is a sign of showing total commitment to the gang.
these tattoos can reveal lots of things, like,
who you are/what gang you're in/ what your beliefs are (racist etc..), what
you have done, where you have been, how many years
you have been in jail (also referred to as ‘dead time’) and even things like
how many you have killed.
known symbols include teardrops under the eye as well as spider webs on the
elbows to symbolize people killed.
the popularity of tattooing during the latter part of the nineteenth century
and the first half of the twentieth century owed much to
the circus. when circuses prospered, tattooing prospered. for over 70 years
every major circus employed several completely
tattooed people. some were exhibited in sideshows; others performed
traditional circus acts such as juggling and
as with other artistic mediums and cultural developments, vocabulary
continually evolves, reflecting the depth and potential
of body marking and of the contemporary imagination. in recent years
tattooing has emerged to the forefront of popular
consciousness. today a tattoo ‘flash’, is a folder of tattoo-artwork by
tattoo artists. styles range from the traditional and vernacular to
the sacred and innovative.