A Brief History of Tattoos
Humans have been decorating their body with tattoos for thousands of years. Sometimes, they are signs of social status, sometimes marks of genealogy, and sometimes simply a permanent mark to commemorate an important time in our life. But how did tattoos get to the point they are in our culture now? It seems like everyone and their grandma is getting a tattoo. Let’s take a look at the brief history of tattoos to see how we got to where we are today with this timeless body art
The Iceman Tattoo
The oldest known tattoo was found on the fossilized body of a 5,200 year old human discovered along the border where Italy and Austria meet. Archaeologist note that the iceman’s tattoos were placed relatively haphazardly along his spine and back in the form of simple dots. They believe that these were medicinal in nature rather than decorative, meant to relieve some sort of bodily pain.
From statues, paintings, and the mummies of ancient Egypt, historians have gathered that tattooing was popular among Egyptian women. They would decorate their body, limbs, and thighs in geometric lines, diamonds, and occasionally natural images. Experts are divided on the purpose of tattoos in ancient Egypt, which were strictly reserved to women. Some believe they were reserved for prostitutes and concubines, while others theorize that tattoos served pregnant women as a sort of charm to protect them during pregnancy and labor.
Ancient Rome and Greece
Oddly enough, tattoos in ancient Rome and Greece were used as signs of ownership. A religious sect might tattoo all of their members in a certain way, or a slave owner would mark his slaves with tattoos in order to claim them as his property, much like cattle are branded. After the introduction of Christianity, however, Emperor Constantine banned tattoos around 300 A.D., as they were seen as a sort of bastardization of a body created in the image and likeness of God.
European explorers were probably reintroduced to tattoos as body art from the Maori people when they landed in the Polynesian islands in the 1500s, today shops like tattoo Honolulu embody the art forms of so long ago. Body art then became popular among sailors and miners, who used tattoos as a sort of lucky charm to keep them safe in their relatively dangerous professions. From their humble beginnings among these tradesmen, tattoos spread quickly throughout Europe, and were eventually introduced to the Americas in the form we know them now.