One Busy Guy Presents...
A History of the Tattoo
1. the act or practice of marking the skin with indelible patterns, pictures, legends, etc., by making punctures in it and inserting pigments.
Incredible as it may seem certain marks on the skin of an Iceman dating back to 3300 BC are actually tattoos! It's so interesting and if true it is the earliest known evidence of body art. More widely recognized are tattoos & body art found on Egyptian and Nubian mummies dating from about 2000 B.C. Classical authors mention the use of tattoos in connection with Greeks, ancient Germans, the Gaul's, Thracians (whoever they are) and the ancient Britons.
With the growth of Christianity body art was forbidden in Europe. However, the practice did continue in the Middle East and other parts of the world. Curiously tattoos were missing among populations with the darkest skin color and also in most of China.
Tattooing has been linked with the seafaring lives of sailors for centuries. This tradition began in the 1700's, when Captain Cook encountered tattooed natives of the South Pacific. Cook's sailors were looking for the perfect souvenirs of their journey into foreign lands. Accepting a tattoo was the most convenient and exotic (not to mention portable and permanent).
One of the most notable seaman of all time was George Burchett-Davis. In 1888, at the age of 16 years, George set out on the H.M.S. Victory. For the next several years the world was his home. In memoirs published in 1958 (some 70 years later) Davis recalled much of the angst encountered while serving in the Royal Navy before the turn of the century, but that is a separate tale.
Sporting a tattoo addressed certain symbolisms on the part of the wearer (at least in the beginning). An anchor meant that this sailor had traveled the Atlantic. A rope tattooed around the wrist meant that this person was a dock hand. A dragon said that this individual had been to the Orient. Certainly these markings had the added advantage of permitting a body to be identified in the event of some horrific catastrophe at sea.
Tattooing differs in spelling between
languages. Germans refer to tattoos as 'Tatowirungz'. In French it is 'Tatouage'.
In Italian it is referred to as 'Tatuaggio'. Captain Cook once referred to this operation as 'tattaw'; other terms are 'scarring', 'painting'
The Otahitan word 'attaw' is derived from 'ta' which means
to 'knock' or to 'strike'.
In the 21st century tattoos have become popular with what can only be referred to as the 'MTV' generation. It is the duty of young people to find some form of generational identity. Drugs and bell bottoms are no longer in fashion (as in the 60's). Tattoos and body piercing have become a most recent expression for young adults. It is as common place as ear piercing; though that is a topic for another page.
Tattooing is a permanent feature on the skin. It is an expensive and time consuming procedure when done properly and also rather painful. Removal can cost up to three times as much as the art itself. Clothes can be changed; hair can be cut or colored (it grows back); a tattoo is pretty much forever. For this reason tattoos should be carefully chosen expressions of the self and should only be administered by qualified professionals. The lovely rose on the small of a young back may well become an entire bush by age 60!