History of Tattoos

Topics: Tattoo, Tattooing, Tattoo machine Pages: 5 (1579 words) Published: July 6, 2012
History of tattoos
Did you know that the first sign of tattoos were discovered on the “Iceman” dating back over five thousand centuries? These tattoos were simple lines and dots, but the significance is unknown. The word tattoo is said to have two major derivations- from the Polynesian word ‘ta’ which means striking something and the Tahitian word ‘tatau’ which means ‘to mark something’. After reading this, one will know the background and history of tattoos, the evolution of the equipment used to give tattoos, and the medical risks involved with getting a tattoo. People that do not have or agree with tattoos are sometimes labeled as freaks or rebels. People get tattoos to express their personalities or religious beliefs. Religious tattoos and other symbols are nothing new, tattoos were actually discovered on mummies which dated as far back as 3000 B.C.

Sailors, prisoners, Indians, and even the blue collar working man or woman all have something in common: Tattoos. Tattoos are permanent designs applied by ingraining different color pigment into the skin. Tattoos have multiple meanings for different cultures. In almost every early culture, tattoos symbolized status. Tribal eras of history, tattoos played roles as rituals and traditions. Tattoos symbolize individuality, religion, art, and social status. The first tattoos known to history were discovered in October 1991 by a scientist who had located a mummy that had been frozen in the Alps for approximately 5000 years. This mummified body was identified to have been from 3300 B.C. This mummy was tattooed with a total of 58 tattoos on his body. (Krcmarik, 2003) These tattoos were only lines and dots, but showed just how old this art was.

In recorded history, the earliest tattoos evolved in Egypt during the erection of the great pyramids. As the Egyptians expanded their empire, the tattoo art expanded with the increase within the empire, The Greeks used tattooing for communication among spies by identifying the spies and showing their rank. (Brief History of Tattoos, 2004) Romans marked criminals and slaves, which this practice is still carried on today. (Brief History of Tattoos, 2004) Tattooing then spread to China. Historic Asian cultures believed that the wearer of an image calls the spirit of that image. For example, the ferocity of a tiger belonged to the wearer of that tattoo. (Brief History of Tattoos, 2004)

While tattooing slowly diminished in the West, it was thriving in Japan. Originally, it was used as ways to identify criminals. A criminal’s first offenses were marked with a line across the forehead, a second crime was marked by adding an arch, and a third offense was marked with another line. Together these marks formed the Japanese character for "dog." Anthropologists argue that this was the original "three strikes you’re out" law. In time, Japanese escalated the tattoo to an aesthetic art form. (Brief History of Tattoos, 2004) The “body suit” originated in the 1700s as a social reaction against strict laws concerning conspicuous consumption. (Brief History of Tattoos, 2004) Only royalty were allowed to wear ornate attire. As a result of this, the middle-class adorned themselves with elaborate full body tattoos. (Brief History of Tattoos, 2004) A fully tattooed person wearing nothing more than a loin cloth was considered “well dressed.” (Brief History of Tattoos, 2004)

Just after World War II, archaeologists excavated the first of a long row of graves in the Altai Mountains of Southern Siberia. These graves had everything inside perfectly preserved because they were completely frozen. (Krcmarik, 2003) A well preserved chieftan was discovered in the second grave, and had remarkable picture tattoos. (Krcmarik, 2003) These were discovered to be the oldest picture type tattoos. The Chieftain Tattoo design represented different totem and game animals. (Krcmarik, 2003) Tattoos were rediscovered by...

References: Brief History of Tattoos. (November 2004). Retrieved from http://powerverbs.com/tattooyou/history.htm
Tattoos: Understand Risks and Precautions. (February 2010). Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/tattoos-and-piercings/MC00020/METHOD=print
Tattoos, What You Need to Know. (2005-2011). Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/skinbeauty/guide/tattoos-what-you-need-know
Eldridge, C. (1998). Tattoo Archive. Retrieved from http://www.tattooarchive.com/history/tattoomachine.com
Gotch, C., & Gilbert, S. (1995). Tattoos. Retrieved from
Krcmarik, K. (2003). History of Tattooing. Retrieved from http://www.mus.edu/~krcmar1/individual/history.html
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