Perhaps the oldest, greatest, human artistic expression is tattooing. With a history that defines global cultural exchange, the word itself has its beginnings in Tahiti and Samoa, and it was called “tatau.” We can thank Captain James Cook’s exploration of the Pacific Islands for the fascination that developed in Europe for body markings. Cook took painter William Hodges in his travels to record people and places, and today these illustrations give us an indication how prevalent body art was in ancient cultures.
In one of his drawings of a bay in Tahiti Hodges, he shows two women in the water, one of which shows her thighs and buttocks covered with tattoos. Other Pacific islands had different customs, including the fierce facial tattoos of the Maori warriors of New Zealand and the entire body coverings of the Marquesas.
The impact of tattoos was immediate. If not on elite art, in popular culture as sailors of the British Navy put their flesh under the tap and hammer of Pacific islander’s artists who apprenticed under generational Masters.
The Tahitians and Maori’s certainly weren’t the first people to paint their bodies. The oldest evidence of human tattoos is believed to be from between 3370 BC and 3100 BC. One of such clues comes from Ötzi the Iceman. Ötzi was discovered in 1991 and his nickname comes from the location he was found in the Otzal Alps. His tattoos seem to have been made by using soot or fireplace ash and has a total of 61 tattoos in various locations, with most of them located on his legs.
While he may be the best evidence of the first tattoos known to mankind, other eras and ages in history reveal a rich history of tattooing. There is evidence of this from over 49 different location around the world, where tattooed mummies and remains have been discovered. This gives us a good idea that tattooing is something that even primitive people saw to express themselves. Whether it was meant to commemorate a rite of passage or to mark the person as an outcast, it looks like tattooing has always been with us. Fastforward to today, and we see all kinds of designs being made by tattoo artists.
As mentioned in another blog entry, there’s a wide variety of styles for people to choose from today. Which one speaks to you directly, depends on your personal preference, but always make sure to do your research before deciding on a style, theme, and most importantly, tattoo artist. So, look around the site and learn as much as you can, but most importantly, have fun with it. After all, it’ll be something that’ll be with you for a long time.
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