An Introduction to Tattoos
Tattoos… Everyone has a different reaction to that word. It always got my attention. I think the first one I saw on a live person, was my cousins. I must have been 7 or 8 years old. He had a funny caricature of a devil on his arm with “born to raise hell” written over it. I was amazed by it and although it wasn’t until my mid 20’s when I christened my skin, I wanted one the second I saw that little devil.
Today, tattooing is far more accepted in society than it was back in the 60’s, still; there are people that frown upon the idea of marking your body with ink….forever. Whether it’s a religious issue, or their own personal preference, they can’t deny that the tattoo is almost as old as civilization itself.
The word tattoo is derived from the Tahitian word “tatu”, meaning to mark or to touch something. The earliest known tattooed person is the infamous “Iceman” found in 1991, in the Otzal Alps, located in Italy. Carbon dating proved that he had lived about 5,300 years ago. Fifty-eight tattoos were noted on his body!! Archaeologists think he was an important figure in his society. The tattoos were charcoal and water based.
Ancient cultures used tattoos to ward off sickness or bad luck. The Egyptians were the first to use needles to tattoo the body. Archaeologists exhuming tombs, have even found children’s dolls decorated with tattoos. Tattooing spread through Greece, and Arabia, and By 2000 BC., the tattoo had arrived in Asia.
The Japanese first used tattoos to identify criminals. Later it was transformed into an art form, producing some of the world’s most beautiful tattoos. The Yakuza (Japanese mafia) use their tattoos to intimidate their rivals. Japanese style of tattooing has influenced hundreds of artists today.
Polynesians have also contributed greatly to the art. Their instruments consist of sharpened pieces of bone, or ivory, tied to a stick. They “chisel” the ink into the skin by hitting the top of the instrument with a mallet type object. The tool might consist of one sharp object, or a whole row of objects, resembling a rake.
Members of certain tribes underwent grueling hours tattooing their bodies as a right of passage. Those tools are still used today, for those same rituals, but it is a dying art form, performed only by those preserving their culture. They also developed a facial tattoo called the “Moko”. This facial tattoo consisted of lines drawn about the face that would tell that persons life story.