The practice of tattooing has been around for a long time all around the world. The Celts, Samoans, the Maori tribe, Kalinga in the Philippines, and all across the Globe. Some mummies unearthed show tattoo on their skin and tools that might have been used for traditional tattoos.
To these people skin is the canvas for their story. Chris Rainier, the photographer have remarked “Blank skin is merely a canvas for a story.”. The history of tattoos is long and at times can be a bloody one. A tattoo of long ago can mean religious beliefs. Or it can be a scorecard of how many lives one has taken. A family history can be in those markings, or ranking what position he occupies in the community. Some tattoos identify what profession one has or a mark of a slave as punishment.
Tattoos have even been mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible. So, yes, it has been around a long time. Tattoos of old declared who you are in society. It was not for show, and rarely because it was pretty. It hardly is something capricious so there was no room for error. Which would pretty much mean tattoo removal in those days was out of the question.
In some cultures, the practice of tattooing is handed from father to son. The first tattoos in Egypt were found in women about 2000 BC. Although Daniel Fouquet’s research implies that these tattoos might have been for medical treatment. Like the priestess Hathor’s markings could have been a pelvic peritonitis treatment.
The tools used for traditional tattoos are usually handmade. The Samoans used turtle shell and boar’s teeth. Whang – Od is the oldest mambabatok from Kalinga, Philippines. She uses a thorn from a pomelo tree, a foot-long bamboo stick, water and soot to hand-tap tattoos and she has been doing this since she was 15. It is a milleniums-old technique that has been handed down for generations.
Until recently, tattoos have been an identifying tradition for sailors or a mark of gang affiliation. And then it went mainstream to musicians, body builders, etc. Now tattoos can be done by simply finding a good tattoo artist for no other reason than it looks good.