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History of Tattoos: Walking the Journey of Tattooing

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History of Tattoos

I will be very precise. Tattoos are some of the best forms of artistry ever. It is a great way to express oneself and as such one of the fastest-growing trends. In some areas around the world, this form of art is also held to some cultural significance.

But do you know how tattoos originated? If you don’t, you will be thankful to be here. I am going to give you both the origin and significance of tattoos. Let’s dig in.


The very first tattoos were made in the period of 3370 BC – 3100 BC. Around this time, some mummified skins were also found with tattoos. Since then, it’s been the most adopted antique arts.

Nonetheless, in September 1991 Otzi the Iceman also become one of the pillars in the tattoo artistry. Otzi had a tattoo of his name that would later help to identify his body. As such Otzi’s body was mummified and has since been referred to as the oldest tattooed human mummy.

Why Otzi

As opposed to most people, Otzi had so many tattoos. It was discovered after his death that Otzi had 61 tattoos on his body. This was a significant amount of tattoos then. Even so, Otzi wasn’t the only mummified body tattooed then.

Later on, about 40 people with full-body tattoos were also found. They were mummified in the same era and preserved. A later study on the bodies found that these tattoos were made by fireplace ashes.

Today, however, further studies have revealed that tattoos also originated from many other cities such as.

  • Philippines
  • Green land
  • Alaska
  • China
  • Magnolia
  • Russia

History of Tattoos: The Theories

While what we’ve seen above sheds light on the origin of tattoos, down here, we look at the reasons why people wanted tattoos.  A better way is to follow the ancient origins:


In Greece and Rome empire tattoos were used to indicate/identify prisoners. Later on, as civilization took on, tattoos were used for aesthetic value. Then by the 8th century, Romans also adopted tattoos for their army as a sign of appreciation.


In China, tattooed mummies can be found dating back to 500 BC. It is believed that people who had criminal pasts were given full-body tattoos as an identification mark. Nonetheless, other people used tattoos as a way to express themselves and to show love.


India took the lead on body tattoos from the Southern side. In the South of India, people enjoyed some great artistic tattoos on their bodies.  They were known for the first permanent tattoos and they even had a name for it “pachakuthu.”

In the North part of India, some tribes, later on, adopted the trend. They used them to make their cultural identities that were unique. That’s why in India tattoos come in many names including these:

  • Un gala
  • Pachakuthu
  • Gondan

Today, there are people in India who tattoo their gods on the body to identify with their religious faith.


The word tattoo originates from “tatau” in Samoa that means self-expression. Tattooing in Samoa was used to express love between two love birds. They would tattoo each other. They used a handmade tool designed from boar teeth and turtle shells. Tattooing in Samoa also symbolized loyalty to culture and community.

Great Britain

In GB tattoos were famous. The first person to have a full-body tattoo was William Dampier.  Later on, he was famed as the “Painted Prince” of GB.

In GB tattoos were more or less mandatory. As such, both men and women had them. It was used for beauty and that’s why many people loved it.

Even so, the process was often painful since there were no rotary machines and tattoo pens. The art was new and still developing quite slowly.


In certain parts of Africa, tattoos were used as a mark of adulthood. In other parts, it was used as a way of beauty. The culture varied and others also used it to mark the best warriors in the communities.

In these areas, tattoos were made using a sharp object such as sharp stones that were used to make small incisions in the skin. The incisions were done in patterns that eventually looked artistic too.

NOTE: There are other areas such as the Southern parts of the world where the use of black ink is mandatory for social acceptance. Even so, some areas of the North have also adopted tattoo as a treatment for specific health issues.

Evolution of Tattoos

While in ancient times tattoos were made from fireplace ashes and other painful objects such as boar teeth and turtle shells, the trend has died. This is one of the areas that tattoos have greatly evolved.

Today, tattoos have modern tattoo equipment. The equipment is easy to learn, better to use, and with minor injuries to the skin. Some of the most common modern tattooing equipment includes the following:

The technological advancement has given tattooing an epic touch today. It has brought a worldwide embrace of this art. More importantly, it has also given people a more liberal approach to using tattoos as forms of expression.

Here are the reasons why people tattoo today.

  • As a form of beauty addition
  • For self-expression (pass information on racism)
  • As a hobby and passion
  • Equipment is easy to use and no-longer painful
  • To show their love for specific things (people, religion, art)
  • To look different and unique
  • To undo bad tattoos that they made in the past
  • As a reminder of specific dates, anniversaries, etc

The reasons can be combined in a single tattoo. Even so, most people prefer having every tattoo for a specific reason.

Tattoo as Art: Interesting Tips

Since the first known tattoo, there has been a great development in the world of tattoos. Here are some tattoo facts that you should know.

  • Some countries banned tattooing after the Second World War – some bans still stand
  • Laser removal of tattoos is the most improved and highly recommended tattoo correction
  • Tattoos that contain metals don’t heat up when taking MRI tests
  • Today we have temporary tattoos that you can use for some specific timeline and remove
  • The only known person with 100% of their body covered with tattoos is with Gregory Paul McLaren.
  • The second person with 99.99% of their body covered in tattoos is Tom Leppard.
  • Temporary tattoos are made from temporary inks such as henna, water-soluble stickers, and ballpoint pen.

NOTE: There are other cool facts too that came before these. One of them is the use of carbon and ash to make tattoo inks in ancient times. This is a practice that was done until the early 1900s in some places.


It may not seem like a big deal. However, for some people tattoos are. It is their way of expressing themselves. It holds great significance in their lives and they consider it a total beauty.

In my own opinion, tattoos are used as reminders of some of the best and worst moments of our lives. They help us to heal and also to embrace the good things that we achieve. As such, I got a tattoo when my dad passed on and during the birth of my first child.

Such is tattooing. It is an awesome experience that you are missing out on unknowingly. Get one today and relive the moment over and over again.