The Origin and Development of Tattoos

Tattoos are mainly body paint or more permanent marks put on the skin by humans for purposes of adornment, identification, health and other reasons. An ice age man who was more than 5000 years old had a body that sported a lot of designs on the frozen body. Tattoos have been traced back to Egyptian history and found in many of the mummies and other artifacts that have been found in that land. Skin was the first canvas for tattoo art when sticks and other pointed objects were used to create the required designs.

The word itself seems to have come from a Tahitian word, “tatau”, which means marking something. In later years this practice of tattooing the body was part of the culture of Egypt and other people associated with them. Archaeologists have found evidence of tattoos in places as far apart as New Zealand, Peru, and Alaska which were separated by oceans and not easily covered distances in ancient times. Tribes all over the world used it as a form of identification that allowed them to differentiate between tribes. These tattoos have often been found to also denote the status and hierarchy among the members of a tribe. Men often used them to signify their feats as warriors, similar to later day cowboys putting notches on their guns. Women used them to display their age and marital status.

Polynesian tattoos, whose culture gave the word to the world, are very detailed and complex, and were considered spiritual and covered the entire body. The tradition of tattooing among Polynesians continues to this day and is a craft that is handed down from father to son. It maintains its sacred connotations. Hawaiian tattoo art is called kakau and is performed for ornamentation, to create distinct identities, and also as a guard against ill health and against evil spirits. It is believed in that part of the world that tattoos denote a life force and thus have great significance.

Tattoos and tattoo removal processes have always been associated with ritual and tradition and this continues even to this day. Bikers, sailors and many other people who want to make a statement use tattoos to indicate their preferences, associations or other affiliations. Designs often keep changing to denote strong feelings and those that are automatically associated with certain ideologies. Tattoos have always been used to publicly affirm love and affection. Tradition and religion are intrinsically bound in the history of tattoos and are used as symbols that can ward of bad luck. There was a time when tattooing was used in Japan and China to permanently brand criminals and those accused of serious crimes. This led them having to lead the life of outcasts, even after serving sentences, and never allowed them to become a part of society again. The Romans branded their slaves with tattoos so that they could never escape and be easily captured if they did. Nowadays, tattoos have more a use as body adornment and ways to signify beliefs, loves, and association.

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