Can you guess what the word ‘tattoo’ means? It’s Tahitian and means ‘to mark something,’ most commonly a person’s skin. Today, tattooing is a modern form of scarification that’s a common practice in Western and Eastern cultures. Individuals mark their skins with words, images and other emblems important to them.
History tells us that tattooing has a wide range of applications and meanings depending on the culture, type of power structure, and rituals a community participates in. However, a common theme is that tattoos serve as a way of communicating identity or membership in a particular community.
A practice that started thousands of years ago
The art of tattooing is believed to have been around since 12,000 B.C. with scientists pinning its origins to Neolithic times.
The use of tattooing in ancient cultures was a fast and efficient way to signify status, wealth, wellness, and other cultural and personal information for the bearer. Many cultures believed that tattooing an animal, spirit, or any other deity on your body would transpose that power and capabilities to you as the person bearing it.
Tattoos around the world
In ancient Egypt tattoos were a practice believed to have healing properties. But that’s not all. It could also serve as a punishment for wrongdoers and as a form of signaling a person’s religion and status.
In India, henna tattoos are a popular form of non-permanent skin scarification that can be traced back to ancient practices and rituals.
Japan’s tattoo history stretches as far back as 10,000 B.C according to history records and discoveries. Used mostly for decorative and religious/spiritual reasons, Japan has a rich collection of tattooing practices which people communicate their likes, status, and spiritual aspirations.
Tattoos in the modern world
The first officially documented, professional tattoo artist was Marin Hildebrandt who lived in 19thstyle=”font-weight: 400;”> century Massachusetts. Today, the art of tattooing is a popular practice across the world with its main functions being to communicate identity, status, or membership in a community. Many young adults use tattooing for purely decorative reasons or as a way of expressing allegiance to or affection for someone.
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