Tattoos may be a rage among youth and biker gangs but getting inked didn’t just mean art in ancient times. Tattoos have been around for thousands of years as a serious expression of ritualistic symbolism and medical practice.
The pre 1991 era had researchers believing that tattooing originated in Egypt. However this theory was made void by the discovery of the mummified remains of a man that had existed in the Bronze Age dating as far back as 330o to 5000 BC. The Ice man has they called him displayed about 57 body tattoos prominently marked over pressure points and major organs. These could well have been made as a means of medical therapy which clearly suggests that the tattoos in ancient times were conceived as a form of medicinal curing.
No known evidence exists further of that age where tattooing is concerned and so historical evidence attributes the popularity of tattooing to ancient Egypt in the era of 2500 BC from where it slowly spread worldwide. Egyptians in the time of the pharaoh dynasty were advanced in the art of tattooing more as a symbolic ritual for worship. This is why it was restricted more to priests and priestesses .discoveries of mummies found in Egyptian tombs said to be of temple priestesses displayed many geometrical symbols tattooed all over their bodies
With Egypt establishing trade relations with countries like Crete and Mesopotamia, tattooing slowly spread all over the Asian African region. Travelling Asian nomads soon brought the tattoo culture Japan where it developed more as an art form clearly reflective in the Japanese full body tattoos of the modernized world. Japanese tattoo experts called ‘horis’ used their skills to create imaginative and exotic designs that are still in demand.
Tattoos developed as an ornamental art form in Europe
Tattooing spread to Europe perhaps in 500 BC where aristocratic Thracians of the Balkans used tattoos as a depiction of social status. Tattooing slowly spread to Polynesian islands where natives used tattoos as symbols f their tribal status. The most famous of tribal symbolism is reflected in Maori art of New Zealand. As the effects of tattoo culture grew around the world, various cultures adopted either for ornamental purposes or for practical purposes such as branding slaves with the trade mark of a particular owner. Gradually as worldwide sea routes began to be explored and countries became connected by sea, the tattoo as an art form became widely popular among sailors.
The tools used in various countries differed. The Maoris used wooden reed like instruments and tools made form bone to mark colored dye into the skin. Modern tattooing instruments
were soon produced in Europe using metallic instruments and in 1891 the first patented tattoo machine was invented by an American called Samuel Reilly. Reilly improved upon an engraving tool originally conceived by Edison.This probably served as a base from where the tattooing instruments have developed into the modern sophisticated needle like tools of today.