The First Tattoo

Tattoos are not some new fad! Well we never had them in my day bla bla bla..

The first origins of tattoos date back to about 3300 B.C. They believe that certain marks found on the skin of the “OTZI”, a mummified body of an iceman found in the Italian Alps, were considered tattoos back in the day. If their acceptance is true, these marks on his body represent the earliest known evidence for tattoos in history. All we know for sure up until now is that there are tattoos found on Egyptian and Nubian mummies dating from about 2000 B.C. Classical authors also mention the use of tattoos in ancient societies like the old Greeks, Germans, Britons, Romans and Gauls.

The tattoos we know and love today were discovered by Europeans while exploring North America and the South Seas of the Pacific Ocean. Their first contact with cultures like the American Indians and Polynesians also were the first contact of so called “civilized” people with tattoos. The word tattoo was first mentioned in James Cook’s records from his 1769 journey to the South Seas. The natives of Tahiti, this is where Cook’s expedition went to, called the marks on their bodies TATTAU which was translated into TATTOO by Cook. Due to their exotic appearance, tattooed Indians and Polynesians where showcased at circuses and fairs during the 18th and 19th century all over Europe and the US.

Different cultures developed a vast variety of different tattooing methods. Depending on where you lived, there was a type of tattooing method done there.

In many North and South American Indian tribes the tattoos were applied by a simple form of pricking. Other tribes would simply rub color on the skin, mostly made out of ash into scratches they carved into their skin and this included many Arctic and Subarctic tribes, mostly Intuit.

Some tribes in eastern Siberia made needle punctures through the skin, and a thread was drawn under the skin coated with pigment to apply the color.

In Polynesia and Micronesia the pigment was pricked into the skin by tapping on a tool shaped like a small rake. A similar method is still used today by famous tattoo artists in Asia and other different countries. It still is almost the same procedure going back some 300 years ago, except for the sterilizing, and it is considered a honor to receive a tattoo that way by a Japanese Tattoo Master. Younger people, especially, are thrilled to have their tattoo applied in this fashion by a Master.

The Maoris of New Zealand, who are probably the most famous people in the world for their tattooing, used the same technique for tattooing as they used to carve wood. A small bone cutting tool was used, to carve shallow, colored grooves in complex designs on face and buttocks, by striking it into the skin.

In the 1700s, after the Europeans arrived and introduced metal to the natives, the Maoris began using the metal settlers brought for a more conventional style of puncture tattooing.

Today, of course, tattoos are applied using a sterilized needle. Some of the most popular tattoos done today are applied in this way.

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