A Brief History of Tattoos! From Mummies to Tribal Tattoos

Tattoo History

Tattooing has been around for thousands of years and has quite the history! The oldest examples of tattoos come from tribal markings found all over the world. Even then people got tattoos for different reasons. Many of them were ceremonial or marking events in their life. In fact, people these are reason similar to our own today. We still choose to commemorate things that happened in our daily lives by marking a permanent reminder on the skin. Keep reading for a brief history of tattoos!

Tattooing in Neolithic Times!

The first evidence of tattooing comes from Neolithic times. It has been found both in art and on the mummified remains of people from that time. There is some scant evidence that shows it may have actually been around from the Upper Paleolithic. But since so very little evidence exists it’s extremely hard to say.

The Oldest Tattoos Can be Found on Mummies!

The oldest tattooed skin belongs to Otzi the Iceman from the 4th Millenium BC. At least 49 other mummies have been found all over the world with tattoos. These include Pazyryk mummies in Russia and a Priestess of Hathor from Egypt. In the ancient world, tattoos were used as a cultural symbol to determine tribal relations, as protection and as a form of healing. In ancient Egypt medical practitioners used tattooing and scarification as a treatment for illness.

Fun fact … these 1000 year old tattoos look better than 95% of the tattoos done today. #mummytattoo

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Tattoos in the Qing Dynasty

Almost a thousand years after the height of Egyptian civilization, the Chinese used tattoos to mark prisoners and slaves. These were done on their faces with the characters up to the Qing dynasty.

Japanese Tattoos Dates Back to the Paleolithic Period

The Japanese are still some of the most recognizably tattooed people on the planet. Japanese style tattoos are incredibly popular and evidence shows that the style dates back to the Paleolithic period there. The practice began to die out in the 17th century, with many criminals being marked with symbols to show their status or what sort of crime they committed. When Japan was unified the Samurai were forced to burn their armor and their culture went underground, choosing instead to tattoo themselves in a group that would eventually evolve into the Yakuza.

@a_canino Beautiful tattoo!!!

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Tribal Tattoos of the Pacific

Even if the Japanese tattoo is the most recognizable, tribal tattoos from the Pacific are not far behind. These are not the sleek long simply lines that many associate with tribal. But are intricate designs that are given at specific points in the recipients life to include them into the tribe. This same practice is found in Samoa, New Zealand, the Philippines. Ceremonies were often group events within the tribe and were usually done with a ceremonial comb and a small mallet to strike the comb into the skin. Many tools were primitive and probably similar to those used for thousands of years. You can still find small pockets of the culture remaining today where tribes continue to tattoo members and continue to use the same ancient methods.

So even if tattooing seems to be a new “fad”, it’s actually far from it. There are traditions of tattooing all over the world! Marking your skin to express yourself. Whether it’s a reflection of where you are in life, as a reminder, or even showing that you belong to a “tribe”. It has been done since before history can remember!

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