History of Tattoos

Topics: Tattoo, History of tattooing, Circus Pages: 6 (1962 words) Published: January 29, 2009
Malisa Smith
The History of Tattoos
Axia College University of Phoenix

Tattoos have been around throughout our history, from Egyptian times to the present day. Many people may say they know the history of tattoos, and where they originate from, but do they really? Does one know that there were reasons that some people had tattoos? There may be people who know the actual history of tattoos and body art and why one would decide to get one; however there are people who do not. To be able to understand the idea of tattoos, one should educate themselves to the history of tattoos. Although tattoos have been considered taboo and a stereotype, history reveals that this particular form of body art has been used for self expression, status and culture.

The history of tattooing is defined as a process of creating permanent designs or modifications to ones body. The word tattoo comes from the Tahitian language, tatau, meaning to mark something. The origin of the word tattoo, is also believed to have come from the sound when the tattoo device is struck by either a rock or solid piece of equipment. The process of getting a tattoo occurs when a person’s skin is punctured, and pigments, usually some form of ink, are inserted just beneath the skin to create a desired pattern or picture. Tattoos can range from a very large area, called black work, or to a fine, smaller detailed area. Tattoos can be very basic in design or an elaborate picture using different colors. Although this way of creating a tattoo may seem barbaric to some, however; many people started out with tattoos from this fashion. There are still people who believe getting a tattoo by traditional fashion is a way connect with the tattoo of their choice.

Tattoos can be traced back to the aboriginal people from Oceania. The majority of what we know about ancient tattoo art has been passed down from ceremonies, legends, or songs. The oldest of these traditions comes from the Island of Samoa. The tradition originates from Polynesian culture, in which there would be one person, the master, who would be assigned to give the tattoos. The master’s of the community were held in high regard, and taken very seriously by the general population (The History of Tattoos, 2008). There were many cases where the master was in charge of not only giving the tattoo, but would also decide if the tattoo was appropriate for the recipient. Keep in mind, with the gift of being the master, also came with great sacrifices. Being the master would often cause them to give up the right to have a family, or even a permanent relationship due to the nature of their craft (The History of Tattoos, 2008). There were even times when they would be restricted, just to avoid the possibility of distracting themselves or their work. Even with the pressures of the possible solitary life, there were also spiritual responsibilities. It was believed that the gift of being a master was given by a patron god, and if the master did not accept the gift, it would be taken away as quickly as it was given to them. The techniques that were given to the master were not to be taken for granted. Furthermore, in Polynesian times, the process for giving a tattoo never changed.

A master was still the one who would give the tattoo, however the actual tattoo process would change over time. First, the design is marked, or outlined on the skin with charcoal, or colored earth. Second, the master would begin his or her work with the needles. The needles were usually made of bird bones, turtle shells, bamboo shoots, or even shark teeth (The History of Tattoos, 2008). The needles would be tied to a shaft, and then dipped into the ink. The ink was made of “candlenut oil, sugar cane juice, coconut milk, water, and other plant based liquids” (The History of Tattoos, 2008). Once the needle had been dipped into the ink, the master would then place the needle on the skin and tap the shaft to indent the skin with the needle in a repetitive...

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