Tattoos are a very old form of body art that go back to ancient times when many cultures used them. Some historians say that tattoos go back 5000 years, while others believe they go back well over 10000 years.
The earliest known evidence of tattooing goes back to markings found on the mummified human body that was discovered in the Alp Mountains in 1991. 5300 years old Oetzi – The Tyrolean Iceman, the oldest European mummified human, was tattooed. 58 tattoos, which appeared to serve more than a simple decorative function as some of them represent known pressure or acupuncture points, has been found on his body. The fact that he was tattooed was not a coincidence and it was probably perfectly normal for people of his time to be tattooed.
Ancient Egypt where wall paintings as old as 2000 BC have been suggesting the use of tattoos is today generally accepted as the cradle of tattoo art. Tattoos have been found on a small number of female mummies. The example of this are the mummified remains of a priestess of the goddess Hathor who lived some time between 2160 BC and 1994 BC.
When the Egyptians expanded their empire, the art of tattooing spread to the civilizations of Crete, Greece, Persia, and Arabia. Around 2000 BC it spread to China. The Mayans were also known to have tattoos, as were the Aztecs and Incas. Tattooing became widespread among Polynesian peoples, and among certain tribal groups in the Philippines, Borneo, Africa, North America, and Japan.
The purpose of tattooing varied from culture to culture. The Greeks for example used it for communication among spies. Romans use them to mark criminals and slaves. Tahitian tattoos served as rites of passage, telling the history of the wearer’s life. Tattoos served as symbols of religious and spiritual devotion, decorations for bravery, sexual lures and marks of fertility, pledges of love, amulets and talismans, protection, and so on.
Tattooing was rediscovered by Europeans when they came into contact with Polynesians and American Indians.
About the word – Tattoo
The word – tattoo originates from the Tahitian word ta-tau, meaning – to make a mark. Ta-tau means to mark or puncture the skin and is a reduplicated form of the word – ta – meaning – to strike. Tattauing or tattooing was a word introduced to Europe by Captain James Cook after his 1769 expedition to the South Pacific.
The history of tattoo began thousands of years ago and is as diverse as the people who had them. Today, tattooing is becoming more popular and accepted than it has ever been.