Tattoo History

Tattoo Facts Describing Tattoo History

The History of Tattoos

A debate about tattoo history can never be fully settled since permanent tattoo makeup dates back over 5,000 years ago. According to Wikipedia’s tattoo history section, “Tattooing has been a Eurasian practice at least since around Neolithic times. In 1991 Ötzi the Iceman, dating from the fourth to fifth millennium BC, was found in the Ötz valley in the Alps and had approximately 57 carbon tattoos consisting of simple dots and lines on his lower spine, behind his left knee, and on his right ankle.” Searching for tattoo history in Egypt unearthed mummies with tattoos on their bodies resembling animals and monsters dating back to about 2,400 years ago. These ancient tattoos are believed to be decorative with and meant to portray the status of the individual preserved in tattoo history.

Past tattoo history and tattooing in the Western Hemisphere as it exists today originated from Polynesia and in the discovery by eighteenth century explorers and European Sailors. The word “tattoo” has said to have been derived from the Polynesian word ‘ta’ which means striking something and the Tahitian word “tatau” which means “to mark something”.

Tattoo History - Young Sailor Getting a Tattoo

Young Sailor Getting a Tattoo

In the United States and North America, early Jesuits report of Native Americans tattooing tribesmen to reflect status and warrior accomplishments. Before the 1900’s in the US, tattoos had a negative association by most people and tattooed individuals were often regarded as “freaks” seen in carnival attractions. In 1846, the first tattoo shop opened in New York by Martin Hildebrandt, USA’s first professional tattoo artist, and began tattooing men in the military on both sides of the Civil War. Hildebrandt was also responsible for tattooing America’s infamous first “tattooed lady” or “tattoo wonder” with the Barnum and Baileys Circus, who happened to be his daughter Nora. This was all 45 years before the Samuel O’Reilly invented the first electric tattooing machine in 1891 and changed tattoo history forever.

“A sailor without a tattoo is like a ship without grog; not seaworthy” – Sam O’Reilly

Tattoo History - Tattoo Machine

Tattoo Machine Patent

Just as tattoo history has evolved, tattooed perceptions have provoked different feelings throughout the history of tattoos.


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