Thursday, April 22, 2021

A Brief History On Tattooing

 

Tattoos are fairly common among the young and old. On average more than 20% of people between 18-29 years have at least one tattoo. The artificial marks are considered a form of expression and an aesthetic on the skin. However, the concept of tattoos is not recent. 

 
The art form has existed for centuries dating back to as early as 3300 BC. Charles Darwin, the ‘father’ of evolution, believed every country in the world practiced tattooing and other forms of permanent body decoration. 
 
Early Tattoos
Otzi the iceman is perhaps the earliest evidence of tattooing in early civilizations. Otzi is a mummified human found in the Schnalstal glacier in the Alps. The mummy dates back to 3300BC and offers a wealth of information on early civilisations in Europe. The mummified skin of Otzi had a total of 57 tattoos. 
 
Several of the tattoos were around acupuncture points supporting the theory that they were done for medical reasons. After investigations on the mummified skin, no conclusive answer was given for how Otzi’s tattoos were made. However, there was evidence soot was used.
 
In ancient Egypt, evidence of tattooing exists in archeological records. Figurines illustrate the existence of tattooing among the people. Actual mummies with tattoos have also been discovered. The seven Deir el -Medina mummies all had different tattoos of crosses, baboons and hieroglyphics. The tattoos were spotted in 2016 after thorough studies on the mummies. 
 
Unfortunately, the resins used in mummification made it hard to identify the marks on initial discovery of the mummies. Nonetheless, more than 30 individual tattoos were found on the mummies. In 2018 figurative tattoos were discovered on 5,000 year old Egyptian mummies. 
 
Tattoos have also been reported on more than 10 mummies from ancient Egypt providing strong evidence for the art form in early civilisations. Across Europe and Asia, evidence for tattooing has been discovered from archeological discoveries. The evidence also suggests women, men and children had tattoos.
 
How Tattoos Spread
There is strong evidence that some civilisations adopted tattooing from interactions with different cultures. Migration and trading led to the development of tattooing. Women from India and the Middle East were skilled tattooists and provided tattoos to inhabitants in regions as far as Eastern Europe. At the beginning of Christianity, the Scythians were responsible for spreading tattooing from Siberia to Europe. 
 
Similarities have been identified between traditional tattoos in several areas across the world. In South- East Asia men from different regions had similar tattoos that extended from the waist to the knees. In the Arctic and along the west coast of America, women had tattoos on their cheeks and chin with similar patterns. Sailors from Europe also imitated tattoos from South -Sea islanders. Trade of prisoners and slavery also led to the spread of tattooing across the continents. 
 
What the Tattoos Meant
It’s hard to say the original meanings of many tattoos since some were imitated. Nonetheless, tattoos have been used to distinguish individuals within a group and groups within a society. Historical evidence suggests tattoos were used as marks of distinction. The tattoos were made on warriors and leaders. 
 
Moreover, the marks were used to signify a transition to adulthood for both men and women. On the other hand, tattoos were also used to shame individuals. Other social statuses marked by tattoos included; marriage, class, age and power. Tattoos were also used to identify allies. Among women, the marks were considered marks of beauty.  
 
Currently, there are only a few parts of the world with indigenous tattooing. The art form has seen numerous developments but it still echoes most of the influences from early civilisations. We still walk into tattoo parlours for the same reasons our ancestors put tattoo marks on their skin; beauty, status, identification and expression. These reasons are timeless. 
 
Therefore, you can be certain that the desire you have to get a tattoo was shared by your ancestors.

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