The History Of Tattoos: How Deep Is Your Love?

How deep is your love? Whether you scream Bee Gees or Calvin Harris And The Disciples, tattoos are one of the most expressive ways to show your love for anyone occupying your heart space. But, where did they come from and when did someone decide to ink skin permanently? Were they always so expressive, or were they more utilitarian?

You are in the right place to explore the answers and learn some more trending and historical facts about one of the world’s ever-evolving and always-popular and most personal art forms. Read on to learn more about the history of tattoos.

Today’s Tattoo Method
Most people probably have personal expression on the top of their minds when they mull their next tattoo. Tattoos are achieved when the tattoo artist pens the ink, which gets below the surface of the skin. Artists can deliver a line drawing or fill it in with or without color.

Some use tattooing to mark celebrations, make celebrations of life of their deceased loved one, or engrave the skin with their blood type, or life-threatening illnesses. It’s something of a permanent medical bracelet without the risk of losing a bracelet. But it’s not a new trend by any means to use tattoos to indicate health status.

Early ancestors on the planet have, at times, used tattoos encircling the fingers and even around the wrists to vex evil or illness. Did it work in warding off the evil that caused illness? Who knows. On a whole other level, criminals were tattooed before the Internet could provide a criminal background check instantly in ancient China, among other cultures.

The Samoan Guide
It turns out that the Samoan civilization had its own recorded 5-step process for tattooing within 10 days. It listed out what portions of the body to tattoo during what visit, and the determination of how high the tattoo should rise on the parts of the body.

“Modern” Tattoo Methods
Surprisingly pristine Victorian era people, who put a premium on conservative head-to-toe covering dress gave way to the actual first machine used to make tattoos. It’s the same pen and ink design idea essentially now as it was back in the late 1800’s, believe it or not. More on that later.

In a sense, marking the skin to alert people of your body’s state gives way to a whole other segment of purposes of tattooing. The reasons for getting or giving tattoos spans a whole spectrum of utilitarian reasons; meaning, practical purposes. It’s similar to ranchers branding their cattle to let everyone know where they belong or a family getting tattoos to demonstrate their religion in other nations around the world.

Cultural Expression Since The Beginning Of Time
Thinking of showing who belongs to what family, religion, caste, has what useful skills or even their marital status gives a hint that tattooing is far older than most people today would think. It spans back 40,000 years and surprise, it was a specialty of the northern, coldest civilizations.

While the word we use today is adapted from “tattau”, a term used in Tahiti, there are probably hundreds or more terms used to describe inking. India has gone through its own metamorphosis in the lingo used to refer to tattooing even in the past century alone. India has many dialects and languages spoken there, so to imagine hundreds of words for the same process is not beyond reality. They have used tattooing for 4,000 years, with archaeologists estimating the process there dates back to 2100 to 2300 BC.

Walking Resumes In Borneo
Borneo probably has some of the best examples of how tattooing was used as a “sign” on the body used to communicate a woman’s skill set. What this walking resume on their arm did was advertise their potential value to their future husbands. It was used as a way to court for marriage.

Meanwhile, Western Europeans only re-discovered tattooing through their introduction to the Native American Indian tribes in the New World and in Polynesia. Native Americans would scratch the skin on the face, and at some point added color to the process.

What may be even more surprising to people reading this is that the Europeans settling in the New World/British Colonies/early United States got inked. Do you think it’s the Hatfields and McCoys who were getting tattoos, living up in the mountains? Then you guessed wrong. It would have been out of their price range, sadly.

It actually became a sign of wealth in the early 1700’s Colonial America, when it was more complicated, time-consuming and costly to tattoo skin. That gave way to a period where tattooing seemed to lie low. Once today’s modern tattoo pen was developed in the 1890’s, then it went down in cost and therefore in “class”.

At that time, through a good part of the 20th Century, tattoos in the Western world were considered something the lower class might have done. Bikers, jail birds, and edgy rebels who loved rock ‘n roll topped the list of those getting tattooed.

European Ink History
Even the Romans may have used tattooing, as demonstrated in Neolithic era Pre-Cucuteni figurines from as far back as 4900 BC, more than 6900 years ago! While they should not sound fully new to the European Western culture, it seemed like something of a re-discovery process that occurred when they first interacted with the Polynesians and Native American Indians in the prior millennium.

Does Art Resemble Life?
It really took in the Paleolithic on figures people made in the Aurignacian 40,000 years ago. Hohle Fels, an ivory carving from 35,000-40,000 years ago and Aurignacian figurines both had lines engraved in he torsos. Archaeologists guess that these figurines are simply a reflection of art resembling true life. It’s really anyone’s guess.

Yet, either way, odd how Europe altogether had collective amnesia about their long-standing and illustrious cultural history dating back through time immemorial. Anyhow, tattoos dotted the timelines of what seems like most cultures and continents around the world.

From Russia, With Love
If we travel way north in exploration of tattoos on human skin throughout history, we go back to one of the world’s best-preserved ice man specimens. Lovingly called ?-tzi the Iceman, he lived between 3370 and 3100 BC, or 5100 to 5370 years ago. And, if you have not guessed it, our Siberian friend had tattoos.

In eastern Siberia, they used needles to puncture the skin. They did use color, which they applied by passing the needle through an eyelet that was coated in pigments. Can you imagine what they would have used for pigment in the arctic where solid ice and frozen ground grew nothing to little? Soot from having burned wood is one example of pigment Siberians used to make tattoos. They drew it beneath the skin which is more akin to the idea of a modern tattoo.

Now, the exact opposite direction south on the earth, down in New Zealand, the natives there actually used a more scary sounding technique. However, they were carving wood was how they were applying tattoos. Now that’s a mark of courage and pain tolerance.

Our Siberian friend is not alone in his tattoos. Archaeologists have found signs of tattooing in locations all over the globe, including more in Alaska, Greenland, Mongolia, China, the Andes, Egypt, Sudan, the Philippines. It sure seems our ancestors in the coldest parts of the world used tattooing extensively.

Mummies were actually found in Siberia that point to tattooing in its early Pazyryk. In Egypt, celebrated priestesses were memorialized and honored between 2134 back to 1991 BC.

Indus Valley: Hundreds Of Ways To Say I Love You
As it turns out, in India, which was fed by early humans who had made their way up from the Indus Valley region, tattooing has many names and a much longer history.

Banned From Resting In Peace?
Interestingly there is one culture that has long-held beliefs against tattoos. For most Jews, willingly volunteering for a tattoo meant being banned from burial in Jewish cemeteries. The reasoning has largely been struck down by contemporary rabbis, and even very conservative Jews through the Chabad.

There was a rule in the Torah that basically says that the human vessel is on loan, to be well cared for until they have passed away. In that view, the tattoo would have been seen as sullying the body. These days, it is said that that was an old misinterpretation.

Asian Tattoos
In the Philippines tattoos were serious. They marked warriors, whether they were headhunters or any type of fighter and human hunter. Meanwhile, Thailand unified Indian-Asian culture with Asian practices, using tattoos for everything from religious and spiritual purposes to acting as a sign.

The Chinese civilization is so ancient that it is not a stretch that they would have had tattoos during their expansive and illustrious history. Though, they did not view tattoos as a good thing. Chinese traditionally marked prisoners’ faces, and considered robbers and other unsettling threats to society as those with tattoos.

Tattoos are forbidden in some cultures, a mark of high society, low culture, prisoners, warriors, skilled maidens ready for marriage, to those wishing to express their love. Tattoos circle the world and are as unique as every individual who has walked the planet.