The Beginning of Tattoos
Different cultures tattoo for different reasons like, protection, rank in society, adornment of the body and coming of age. Regardless of why people are tattooed, they have been tattooing since before the birth of Christ. Throughout history tattooing has served many purposes. The earliest evidence of tattooing was found in 1991 in the mountains of Austria. An Iceman was found, his bones dated back to 3,300 B.C. which is over 5300 years ago. His skin had signs of blue tattoos. The scientists did not understand the reasons for his tattoos, but counted fifty-eight in total. (Wiman-Rudzinski, 2002) Egypt is generally accepted as the birth place of tattoos. Tattoos were widely accepted and were very popular in the culture. They were accepted so much that even children’s dolls had tattoos on them. According to P. Reese (2003), mummies have been recovered dating back to (2160-1944 BC). They found the female Amunet, the priestess of the god Hather. The female had several patterns and designs in the form of dots and lines. Typically, these tattoos placed on the abdomen of a woman to help with fertility. Often, the reasons for tattooing in this era were to connect with the divine one, for medical or magical protection, to act as a sacrifice, and to tell a story. The popular tattoos in this time period were the God Bes, The tattoo typically appeared on the inner thighs. The tattoo would be a dancer or a musician. The God Ra would be tattooed also; this is the God of Sun. According to George Burchett (1958), from Egypt tattoos spread across the world. Since Egypt closely communicated with Crete, Greece, Persia, and Arabia. By 2000 B.C., This is how tattoos spread to Western Asia. Tattoos arrived in Asia around 5000 BC, according to Gilbert (2001) they were used on figurines. These figurines were used as a stand-in for humans in tombs. The figurines had tattoos on them, the tattoos represented religious and magical significance. Later in Japan 297 AD according to P. Reese (2003), they found Japanese text stating men of all ages tattooed their faces and their bodies with Japanese characters. At this time there were writings about tattoos but it was always spoken about in a negative manner. The Japanese said that tattoos were for barbarism and used for punishment. In the 7th Century Japan adopted much of the Chinese culture and with that came their view of tattoos. In 720 AD was the first record of tattoos being used for punishment. According to Japanese history the emperor summand Hamako, and told him he was being punished to death for plotting rebellion. He originally punished him to death but then decided not to kill him but tattoo him instead. After this in the 6th century tattoos were identified with criminals and outcast. Typically outcast would have tattoos on there arm. The criminals were marked with a pictograph of a dog on their foreheads. They would also have marks of bars; crosses double lines, and circles on the face and arms. The criminals that were tattooed had to commit serious crimes, and because of this they would then become ostracized by their families and communities. In the Japanese culture your family is very important. So to be punished with a tattoo it would be devastating to a person. By the 17th century tattoos be came more accepted. People had turned to decorative tattoos and used them to cover up the tattoos they received as punishment. Tattoos in the 18th century flourished among the lower class. They were also used by gangs in hopes to improve their lives. In the 19th century tattoos were outlawed again due to a new emperor. However, under the new law they could not tattoo Japanese people but could tattoo foreigners. The tattoo artists were so revered for there talent people would come from Russia and Europe to get tattooed. Tattooing remained eligible until after WWII when General Macarthur liberalized...
References: Burchett, G., & Leighton, P. (1958). Memoirs of a Tattooist: From The Notes, Diaries And Letters Of The Late 'King Of Tattooist '. Compiled And Edited By Peter Leighton. Crown.
Gilbert, S. (2001). The Tattoo history Source Book. Power House Books.
Reece, P. (2003). The Vanishing Tattoo. Retreived April 13, 2008, from
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