History of Tattoos in Australia

Topics: Tattoo, History of tattooing, Scarification Pages: 5 (1918 words) Published: March 26, 2011
A tattoo is the permanent insertion of ink or other pigments below the skin using a sharp instrument, as a form of decorative form of body modification. The word tattoo is derived from the Tahitian term "tatua," which means "to mark.” Since the dawn of time, tattoos have been used for all kinds of purposes. Tattoos have served as symbols of rights, symbols of rank or seniority, symbols of spirituality, devotion, religion, rewards for bravery and security. In ancient times, they were also used as symbols of punishment, slavery and conviction. However, over the past century, tattoos have been most frequently used as body art. The art of tattooing cannot be traced back to a specific time or place. One of the oldest tattoos however, was found to be engraved on the back of a well - preserved natural mummy of a man (now known as “Otzi the Iceman”) who was buried alive on the slopes of the Alps over 5000 years ago. However, research shows that if the skin rots after death, evidence of a tattoo completely disappears. This means that tattoos may have been around for longer than 5000 years, yet there’s no evidence to prove this.

Numerous mummies that were excavated from the pyramids in Egypt have also been found to have tattoos. These tattoos however, were engraved near waists of the women who longed for children and were a symbol of their goddess of fertility. There has been evidence to suggest that in the past tattooing was done for medicinal purposes and that the pigments used in tattoos had some sort of healing effect. For example, societies in the Arctic believe tattoos have powers that can ward off illness or protect people from all types of harm. They believed diseases such as rheumatism were caused by an imbalance in their souls, caused by evil spirits. They thought that these evil spirits entered their bodies through their joints, so they tattooed designs on their joints in an attempt to block them out. Furthermore, ‘protective’ or ‘guardian’ tattoos could be used by these societies to save people from disasters at sea, help them on a journey through the unknown, or even guard against the death of a new born.

The art of tattooing was also popular amongst Christian adherents (as many received the tattoo symbolising ‘the Stigmata of the Lord Jesus’) until the church edict forbade them on the pretext of some quotes in the Bible. The Old Testament law commanded the Israelites, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:28). This command from God is further explained in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 : “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.” Therefore, the number of tattoos amongst Christian adherents significantly decreased. Tattoos have since then persisted in various parts of the world for various reasons and although tattoos have now become acceptable in contemporary societies, ‘tattoos are still condemned in God’s eyes.’ In the Western world, tattooing has historically served as a brand of criminality or a sign of shame (as seen in "The Scarlet Letter" of Nathaniel Hawthorne.) These branding mimicked those of the branding of slaves, the tattooing of prisoners of war in ancient Athens and the marking of the foreheads of French prisoners in the 18th and 19th centuries with letters signifying their punishment. Australia has a rich historical background in which the art of tattooing has a special place. Date back to almost 4,000 years, the Samoan and the Maori tribes displayed a wide range of tattoos on specific parts of their body. In fact, these tribes of Australia represent the major history of tattooing. The Samoan tribes used to cover their lower body completely with all-embracing tattoos, though these tattoos held no specific cultural significance beyond fashion. However, having a tattoo proved a...
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