Tattoos have been used for thousands of years through many different forms as a way of representation. Throughout time, the choice to decorate ourselves with colorful and decorative markings of ink has grown in popularity through elaborate portraits of body art, along with permanent cosmetic make-up. The uses of tattoos have been traced as far back as 2000 b. c. in Egypt, which was found to be present in many Egyptian mummies. Other evidence would be that of a famous 5000-year-old well preserved corpse of “Otzi the ice man,” who was found near the Italian-Austrian border.
Ancient Egyptians are those that have expanded the practice of tattoos to countries as far away as Japan, China, and the Greek regions. “Ta moko” is another popular form of body modification, which the Maori culture introduced from Eastern Polynesia. This is the same concept as a tattoo, only it carves the skin rather than punctures it. This leaves the skin with indented grooves rather than with smooth lines of a traditional tattoo. The descriptive word for “Tattoo” came from the ancient Polynesian word “tatau” (which means to tap).
Pasefika (2010) stated “The foreigners from various European countries mispronounced and documented mispronounced words from Polynesia as they were originally spoken by native people. However with their documentation and usage it has led to the expansion of language. ” (Meaning of Tatau 1: para. 5). The purposes of tattoos are different in every culture from the use of symbols to lettering and characters; whether elaborate or plain each tattoo holds a personal meaning that portrays their personal status, along with symbolisms of love and religious beliefs. In Egypt, the custom was for omen to tattoo dots onto their upper thighs and torso. Lineberry (2007) stated, “During pregnancy, this specific pattern would expand in a protective fashion in the same way bead nets were placed over wrapped mummies to protect them and “keep everything in. ”” (The Ancient and Mysterious History, para. 6).
Lineberry (2007) also states, “The placing of small figures of the household deity Bes at the tops of their thighs would again suggest the use of tattoos as a means of safeguarding the actual birth, since Bes was the protector of women in labor, and his position at the tops of the thighs a suitable location. (The Ancient and Mysterious History, para. 6). This was also said to help protect the women from contracting diseases. In Asia, tattoos were used as a means to identify a young woman reaching the age of maturity. In Greek regions, they were used to identify their slaves. Although in other parts of the world, tattoos are still a form of identification and among existing tribes, a way of exhibiting their rank and seniority. In today’s modern world, tattoos are used as a form of expression through decorative body art.
Individuals are allowing tattoo artists to use their body as a canvas for creating colorful body modifications, and also seeking enhancements of his or her natural features, also known as permanent cosmetics. In early cultures, tattoos were believed to summon the spirits of the animal images adorned on their bodies, and to provide protection while hunting. Identification with the animal spirit was initiated through the submission of pain during the creation of the tattoo, which also activated the spirits. The spiritual leader of the tribe, the Shaman or the Medicine Man, in particular, needed ornaments to indicate his special relationship with the spirits or gods — and his control or power over them. Tattoos were part of his arsenal, along with other amulets in the form of shells, horns, antlers, claws and teeth of animals. ” (Religious Tattoos and Symbols of Faith and Spirituality: para. 7) To have been impeccably decorated was significant to be accepted in the afterlife. “The right tattoo could ensure favor with deities, without which the dying person would not be recognized in the land of the spirits. (Religious Tattoos and Symbols of Faith and Spirituality: para.
7) Today, tribal tattooing is making a return in hopes of linking to their cultural spiritual past. In many different tribes and cultures, tattoos were a time for celebration as their members reached the age of adulthood from adolescence. “Among the Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, permanent body and face markings were – and still are – prevalent. Up until today, the Maori Polynesian tribe, have received “Ta moko” in prominent places on their bodies. (Preuss, 2009) Facial moko is regarded as a prevalent representation of social status. The more prominent the location of the carved tattoo, the higher the social-status of the tribe member. In the modern world, there is so much a person should consider before receiving a tattoo. Numerous tattoo artists are refusing clients who wish to have their faces, hands, and feet tattooed, to eliminate later regrets their clients may experience. More commonly, the younger generation that is trying to establish their individuality, and may find it difficult to gain employment and acceptance within their communities.
The first known instrument to be used to penetrate the skin and create a tattoo was in the form of a wooden handle with a sharp point at the end. Lineberry states “It is possible that an implement best described as a sharp point set in a wooden handle, dated to c. 3000 B. C. and discovered by archaeologist W. M. F. Petrie at the site of Abydos may have been used to create tattoos. ” (The Ancient and Mysterious History, para. 8. ) An instrument similar to that was used for creating Ta moko, except it had a chisel to carve out the skin rather than puncture it.
Soot was used to rub into the open skin once the wounds were created. In 1891, Samuel O’Reilly patented the first electronic tattoo machine. “The process – which is done without anesthetics and may last up to several hours for a large tattoo – causes a small amount of bleeding and slight to potentially significant pain. ” (MayoClinic. com, 2010) The ink pigments extend the use of organic dyes to metal oxides, which red and yellow dyes are most prone to allergic reactions; that will cause blistering, red bumps around the tattoo.
Medication may be taken to cure these types of infections, and can typically be removed with the use of laser treatments or excision. For purposes of allergies, it is wise to be aware that tattoo inks are not regulated or approved by the FDA. After receiving a tattoo, special instructions will be given by the tattoo artist that should be followed for the first few weeks to allow the tattoo to heal properly and to avoid infection. Sun exposure can also fade and change the look of the design. Washing and moisturizing the modified area frequently will reduce the chances of drying and scabbing.
To protect against other diseases, one must look around to see that the parlor is kept clean and free of used equipment. Doing so will increase the chances of receiving the body art that is desired. Tattoo removal, although painful, is possible. This procedure can typically be done with the use of lasers, which causes the ink to break down and become absorbed in the body and eventually fade with time. “The newer Q-switched lasers are said by the National Institute of Health to result in scarring only rarely, however, and are usually used only after a topical anesthetic has been applied. (Classic Inks & Mods, 2010) Different types of laser machines are used to remove the different colors in the ink pigments. Black ink is usually the easiest to remove, as yellow and green take repeat sessions. “The NIH recognizes five types of tattoo; amateur, professional, cosmetic, medical, and traumatic (or natural). Amateur tattoos are easier and quicker to remove, usually, than professional tattoos. ” (Classic Inks & Mods, 2010) Although the use of laser removal is convenient, it also has its health risks.
The use of some ink pigments, when broken down by laser, may have toxic side affects that can make their way to the kidney and liver. Other alternatives to laser are excision, dermabrasion, and cryosurgery. These procedures are more likely to leave scarring then laser. Tattoos are a form of communication that have been used for thousands of years, and will continue to be, due to the popularity as a form of self-expression. Due to the changing patterns, and techniques, tattoos will be more welcomed as people will become open minded to the idea.
Preuss, S. (July 2009). Tribal Facial Tattoos from Around the World. Retrieved, February 16, 2010, from http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/featured/tribal-facial-tattoos-around-world/13690
Classic Ink & Mods. (n.d.), Tattoo History. Retrieved, February 16, 2010, from http://classicinkandmods.com/tattoo-info/
Mayo Clinic Staff (n.d.), Tattoos: Understand risks and precautions. Retrieved, February 16, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/tattoos-and-piercings/MC00020
Pasefika (n.d.). Meaning of Tatau 1. Retrieved, March 7, 2010, from http://www.pasefika.com/Culture/Article/19/sa/meaning-of-tatau-1
Vanishing Tattoo. (n.d.), Religious Tattoos and Symbols of Faith and Spirituality. Christian Tattoos. Retrieved, February 16, 2010, from http://www.vanishingtattoo.com/tattoos_designs_symbols_religious.htm