The History of Tattoos

Topics: Tattoo, Tattooing, History of tattooing Pages: 5 (1824 words) Published: February 12, 2012
Pharos and slaves. Seamen and criminals. Aristocrats and the beloved. Have all shared one thing: the art of the tattoo.

Evidence from ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, the Pacific Islands, Japan and North America shows how truly global the art of tattooing is. In fact, tattooing had existed for thousands of years before England's Captain Cook encountered it in the South Pacific in 1769. Merchants and naval seamen spread the art to Europe and the Americas. But while its meaning has varied from people to people and from place to place, tattooing has most often served as a sign of social status, as a mark of one's passage through life, or simply as a way to beautify the body. (Krcmarik)

Once regarded in the West as frightening and repulsive, the tattoo has enjoyed great popularity in our own culture in recent years. Everywhere we look today; movies, advertisements, television, are signs that people of all walks of life appreciate and practice the art of the tattoo. Incidentally, some scientists say that marks on the skin of the Iceman, a preserved human body dating back to 3300 B.C., are in fact tattoos. These markings represent the earliest known evidence of the practice. Tattoos found on Egyptian and Nubian mummies date back to 2000 B.C., and classical authors mention the use of tattoos in connection with the Greeks, Gauls, ancient Germans and Britons. (Krcmarik)

The word tattoo comes from the Tahitian word tattau, which means "to mark," and was first mentioned in James Cook’s records from his 1769 expedition to the South Pacific. Because tattoos were considered so exotic in European and U.S. societies, tattooed Indians and Polynesians often drew crowds at circuses and fairs during the 18th and 19th centuries. (Krcmarik)

Tattoos have been present for thousands of years. Some are traditional designs, some decorative, some with mystical meanings, all remain popular today. Definite evidence of the use of tattoos in ancient times has been found in various parts of the world. Until the advent of Christianity tattoos were commonplace in Europe. They were banned by the church and had virtually disappeared when they were "rediscovered" by European sailors who came into contact with American Indians and Pacific Islanders. Some explorers returned home wearing tattoos; they also brought back drawings of the decorated islanders and Indians. The newly popular tattoos were favored mostly by working-class Europeans, but they enjoyed a brief spurt of popularity among upper-class men and women in England in the late 19th century. (Invisibleink) Tattoos have meant different things to different cultures: For some peoples, a tattoo, promised invincibility in war, some protected against sickness or misfortune, some offered safe passage into heaven or the after world, and some furnished a visible badge of rank or of membership in a certain group. Tattoos have been used to mark prisoners and to brand society's outcasts. They can serve as a way of advertising one's emotional and or philosophical attachments. Most commonly, however, tattoos have been and still are used for decoration. (Invisibleink) Ancient Egypt- Written records, physical remains, and works of art relevant to Egyptian tattoo have virtually been ignored by earlier Egyptologists influenced by prevailing social attitudes toward the medium. Today however, we know that there have been bodies recovered dating to as early XI dynasty exhibiting the art form of tattoo. In 1891, archaeologists discovered Amunet, a priestess of the goddess Hathor, in Thebes who lived between 2160 BC and 1994 BC. This female mummy displayed several lines and dots tattooed about her body, grouping dots and or dashes were aligned into abstract geometric patterns. This art form was restricted to women and usually these women were associated with ritualistic practice. The Egyptians spread the practice of tattooing throughout the world. The third and fourth dynasties of Egypt introduced it to Crete,...

Cited: Invisible Ink Company. “The History of Tattoos.” Web. 7 July 2010
Krcmarik, Katherine L. “The History of Tattooing.” Web. 7 July 2010
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