Tattooing down the ages



General description:   tattoos are a craze around the world. Tattoo parlors are present in every part of the world being a lucrative business. The process today is totally sophisticated with highly advanced instruments which in the right hands can make tattooing an expression of art.

The word itself is rooted in the Tahitian language. The word ‘tatau’ literally means ‘marking’.  According to scientific and historical evidence tattooing originated during 3500 BC in Egypt. Figurines in various tombs of that period were found with tattoos on parts of their body.  The most famous proof of tattooing was the ice man, discovered within the border area of Italy and Austria. Dating as far back as 5200, the ice man was found with a remarkable 58 different tattoos.

Ice man’s discovery produced a lot of information due to the placement of the tattoos on pressure points. It proved that tattoos were initially made on the body as a form of medication. Even today radiation therapy requires a pattern to be tattooed on the skin as a mark for accuracy. Throughout the ages of history, tattooing was also used as a spiritual art form. Signs and symbols tattooed on the body represented different meanings for health, well being and also for protection against evil. The popular tribal tattoos that are sported by many men in the world today had their origins in spiritual practices. Tribes around the world still believe in this aspect of tattoos representing their spirituality and culture.

Tattoos were mainly used for religious practices

One might have seen the heads of Buddhist monks bearing a distinct dotted mark. These have been made by puncturing the skin using dyes and venom of snakes. The mark is believed to be a protective sign against demons. In Thailand the tattoo is a symbol of divine power and the same concept is present within certain tribes believing that animal tattoos will fill them with powers of the animal represented.

Till recent centuries, Christian soldiers even tattooed a Christian symbol on the hands to be assured of a burial according to Christian rites. Although the bible does not condone the use of tattoos being a kind of defilement on the temple which is the body, still people are wearing more and more Christian related tattoos to reflect their Christian beliefs.

In sharp contrast to tattoos being symbols related to worship, Japan on the other hand used tattooing as punishment. As records have it in 720 Ad, a man accused of sedition against the emperor was sentenced to be tattooed all over his body. The tattooed person was treated as an outcast by both family and society. Tattooing has a diverse history of meaning around the world. Where in some countries it was used on criminals, however in most parts of the world to be a form of medication as well as religious practice. In Egypt especially tattooing was done to keep away evil.