The Beginning of the Tattoo – The history of the first tattoo is often debated as being anywhere from 12,000 BC to 5,000 years ago. Tattoos have been found on mummies all over the world, most dating back to around 5,000 or more years ago. Tattoos have also been recorded as being seen on Native Americans. A tattoo can represent many things: a loved one, a hobby, a favorite pet – just about anything can be made into body ink.
The meaning of tattoo is quite clear in many languages. In Tahitian, the word “tatau” literally means “to mark something.”
It has been speculated that tattoos were originally an accident. This is because the Samoan word, “tatau” literally means “open wound.” Scientists and Historians around the world believe that thousands of years ago, someone had a scratch or other sort of small wound. This person more than likely wiped the blood from the wound off with their hand, which was covered with ash and soot from a fire. Of course, once the wound healed – they found a permanent mark was left behind. (“Tattoos are created by inserting colored materials beneath the skin’s surface.”)
Otzi the Iceman
While it is widely accepted that tattoos have been around for thousands of years, the oldest known tattoo is on a man named Otzi, who was found in the Alps. The body of Otzi the Iceman dates back to about the fourth or fifth millennium BCE. It is estimated that Otzi had at least 57 tattoos. These tattoos were simple lines and dots on his left knee forming a cross, as well as dots and lines on his right ankle and his lower spine. However, it has been debated that these are actually acupuncture wounds and not tattoos.
Tattoo Facts From Around The World
– In Russia, about 120 miles north of the Chinese border; mummies were found with tattoos representing animals, as well as griffins and monsters.
– It is estimated that tattooing has been around for at least 10,000 years in Japan. They began the practice of pricking the skin to insert colored dyes. This is the beginning of the modern form of tattooing as we know it.
– Mummies were found in Egypt dating from 2160 BC to 1994 BC that had tattoos. The female mummies had abstract, geometric patterns tattooed onto their bodies.
– Polynesians use tattoos to define title and rank among their tribes.
– Hawaiians believed that tattoos protected their bodies in the next world, as well as keeping them healthy in this world.
– “Tax-Paid” was tattooed onto slaves sold to Asia from Ancient Greece and Rome.
– One of the most well known examples of forced tattooing is during World War II. During this time, the Nazis used tattoos as a way to identify Jewish people, which would help them find and identify escaped prisoners from their concentration camps.
Purpose Of Tattoos
The purpose of tattoos ranges from rituals, rites of passage, and ways of distinguishing ranks. Historically, tattoos consisted of symbols that represented religious beliefs, forms of decoration for bravery (much like a medal,) or even protection. They were also used as a form of punishment to mark convicts and criminals.
In the modern age, people use tattoos as a form of self expression. They are also used as memorials to lost loved ones or religious symbols. On a sour note, they are also used to mark members of gangs.
Tattoos have also been commonly used by members of the service. The US Army, The British Navy, etc – many of these men would tattoo themselves in honor of their country, their family, or which branch they belong to.
No matter when tattooing may have began or what it is used to represent, it is a common practice in the world today; and will continue to be for years to come.
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Tattoo You; “A Brief History of Tattoos”
WikiPedia; “History of Tattooing”
Designboom; “A brief history of tattoos”