History of Tattoo

Tattoos have been in this world for centuries, though the styles and reasons for tattooing have varied from region to region and society to society. While some served as ornaments, others were guided by religious and still others for personal reasons.

The history of tattoos can be traced back to BC times when tattoos meant a sign of power and were reserved for religious figures in their community. Until 787 AD, Christians used tattoos as symbols of acknowledgment, after which the church banned them.

According to recorded history, this word comes from the ancient Egyptians whose wall paintings that go back to 2000 BC showed scenes of Egyptian life in which tattoos were used. Interestingly, the word tattoo is said to have originated from the sound of the tattooing instrument against the customer’s skin and comes from the Polynesian word ‘ta’ or to strike something. The word tattoo also comes from the Tahitian word “tatu” which means to mark something.

Since about 400 BC, the Japanese have been tattooing for ornamental purposes. They also used it to mark criminals with for easy identification. Much later, in the 1800s, European society took to it and turned it around as an icon of fashion.

In few groups or religions, tattoo is an integral part of their religion and each person following the religion is required to have that tattoo mark on their body symbolizing the person authority as a group member. Even modern day gangs are seen to have a particular mark on their shoulders signifying their group name.

The first electric tattoo machine:

This machine was invented by the American tattoo artist Samuel O’Reilly in 1890, and spawned a new generation in tattooing according to which people had themselves in different parts of their bodies. However, the shift from the tattoo being a sign of criminals and thugs to a respectable and chic emblem took a good many years, and today this body art has spread across the world.

Early tools:

In the early days, tattoos were done with picks, rakes, combs and chisels. These tools helped to cut or puncture the skin before adding pigment. Ever since its discovery, the tattoo machine remained the same for many years. It was based on the design of the autographic printer invented by Thomas Edison to engrave hard surfaces. O’Reilly made slight modifications to Edison’s machine, while keeping the basic machine intact.

Basic components of modern tattoo machines:

  • A sterilized needle
  • A tube system, which sucks up the ink through the machine
  • An electric motor
  • A foot pedal

Clearly, the tattoo as an art form has come a long way and with its growing popularity, things can only get better. The tattoo therefore is now on its way to making more history and be termed as a heritage art form.