Tribal Tattoos

The Ancient History Behind Tribal Tattoos

Although you may think that tribal tattoos are simply part of a new and growing trend, they have played a huge cultural role with many tribes for centuries. Tribal tattoos today are primarily inspired from the Maori tribes of the Polynesian islands.

It has been common for a long time for the Maori to display their social status by wearing tattoos on their body. Some have even been know to ink their whole entire face. Once the European visitors observed this rare showmanship of status, they also wanted to be a part of the meaningful tradition.

The Maori however, were not actually the inventors behind tribal tattoos. Mummified bodies in Egyptian tombs from thousands of years ago have been found wearing very precise patterns of ink. Of course back then, every drop of ink was completed slowly, with a skin piercing needle so every dot displayed was as painful as it was significant. Tribal tattoos were not always worn as decoration. Sometimes they simply represented maturity and strength as well.

The Explosion of Popularity

The art of tattooing today owes a lot to the early Polynesian tribes. In fact, the word tattoo is derived from “tau tau,” the tribe’s terms for the tattoo practice. Tribal tattoos helped individuals feel like they belonged to a group and they were a method of recognizing existence.

The explosion of modern tribal tattoos took place in the 1980s. Tattoo Time, a popular magazine, did a feature on the native tattoos that were found on individuals in Samoa and Borneo. Nearly everyone who read the magazine was deeply inspired. People in western parts of the world quickly worked to duplicate these styles and popularity grew.

Today, there are some that choose tribal tattoos simply for the bold, vibrant images that they display. However, most individuals wear these tattoos proudly to reflect their cultural heritage. Latin American, Native American and Celtic images all bring their symbols to tribal tattoos.

Individuals with Native American ancestry often choose spiritual totems and tribal symbols while Latin Americans adopt Aztec images such as the tribal sun. People with Irish descent typically choose Celtic designs, another type of tattoo that falls under the tribal category but has grown to be so popular it is recognized as its own unique sector.

Tribal tattoos are one of the oldest types of self-expression. They represent belonging and being proud of something bigger than one’s self.

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