Short History of Tattooing

The history of tattooing goes back thousands of years, at least 5,000 years. In 1991, a 5,000-year-old frozen body was discovered in the mountains between Austria and Italy. The body was covered with 57 tattoos. The tattoos ranged from a small cross to a series of parallel lines that appeared to possibly have been remnants of a type of arthritis treatment, based on the placement of the lines.

Egypt has been thought by many to be the place where the history of tattooing began and there is much documented evidence to show that tattoos were used for decorative reasons by many as long ago as 2160 BC. The mummified body of a priestess of the goddess Hathor displayed several lines and dots tattooed about her body. The dots and dashes were arranged in geometric patterns that were associated with ceremonial rituals. Oddly, women were the only ancient Egyptians allowed to wear tattoos.

Surprisingly, however, the real birthplace of tattooing may have been in Japan. Clay figures with engraved and painted faces that appear to represent tattoos have been found that date back to at least 3000 B.C.

Tattooing machines have been used since as long ago as the late 1800s. Samuel O'Reily patented the first tattooing machine in 1891, based on the findings of an Italian physicist, Volta, who developed the forerunner of the electric battery as early as 1800.

It seems odd to think that in our time, tattooing is often seen as a cultural rebellion that is done to set one apart from the norms of society. That may be true, but ironically, in ancient times, tattooing was done by those set apart from the common population because of authority, achievement or royalty. So if you enjoy the look of multi-colored art permanently adorning your skin, go ahead. You will find yourself in some pretty exclusive company.

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