A tattoo is a design made under the skin with ink or other pigment. Usually decorative or symbolic. It’s a type of body modification.
Historical background of tattoo and it’s representations
Tattoos are not a new practice. In fact the first tattoos are situated in the prehistoric area. In 1991 a mumyfied body of a hunter from 5300 BC is found in the italian alpes. Little signs have been found on him they are very stylized. This is the oldest exemple of tattoo ever. They’ve also found that those tattoos were made in medical goal and had a therapeutic founction because they were close to joints and could have an effect on osteoarthritis. Beyond the beleife already assimilated to tattoo even before the birth of primitves societies this exemple shows that tattoo exists since a very long time. Later in 5000 BC it’s in japan that signs of tattoos are found. Coming from funeray statues, they were accopanying to the dead in their last travel. Before this discovery, the first tattoos were considered to be egyptians on a mumy of 2200 BC whom the body was completly tattooed with designs with religious aims. So the first use of tattoo was rather symbolic protection link to the sacred. Nowadays a lot of tattooed still get proctection signs coming from european culture or not. For exemple celtic, chinese or japanese meaning force or protection.
This aspect is realy important in the meaning of tattoo. Colored tattoos developped strongly at the Maoris of new-zeland and were for a long time an adornement greatly prized in china and india. They were said to be good against illness. Sometimes for the maoris or the japanese they were used to identify someone it’s ranks or memebership to a group. The great japanese wariors were often tattooed with big colored frescos. Darwin in it’s work explains that no culture on earth doesn’t know tattoo. Even in europe for the Gallic, the germans or the pictes of great britain that surprised the romans with their body marks. But in europe the christian area put an end to this practice which is now considered as pagan. But the christian bosnians get tattooed to show their difference with the muslims; and the pilgrims back from Lorette in italy or jerusalem get tattooed as a proff of pilgimage.
This popular feeling for religion still exists through religious quoting and images of the holy virgin tattooed on beleivers.
A superstition discribded by Herman Melville says that a sailor tattooed with a cross can be eaten by a shark. Yet int he religions of the book body marks are banned. If a lot o christians got tattooed to claim their religion and some practical reasons (to have a christian funeral) it’s because people who were touched by these religion were already familiar with tattoo like the french britons whic means “those who are painted” or the scots whom the name means those who have the body painted.
Concerning the signs which make a social distinction between individuals we see a strong atachment to those signs in the primitives community. The marquisians for exemple who wore tattoos on different parts of their body. The differenciation into the group was marked by signs corresponding to each social class; under the watch of the chiefs: when an initiate had new atribute he could add new tattoos. Women were less adorned but their tattoo were finest and much better done than male because it corresponded to an aesthetical jewel. Chiefs could wore a lot of tattoos which represented war scene or important events. In the marquises islands tattoos were made also to be beatyfull. Every possible body part were tattooed except for the palm of the hand and sole of the foot. The more the designs are rich, different, numerous the more the person is aged and from a high social level.
At the end of the XIXtn century in polynesia, someone who hadn’t his hands tattooed couldn’t use the common marmite. In the same way a man who wasn’t tattooed couldn’t marry nay girl. That’s why tattoos were made at puberty. We can see that tattoo carry a strong symbol of membership and identity but this identity is inserted in the whole group. If tattoo is a claim of sucess for the wariors it also enable him to stay with people of it’s rank; beyond adornment tattoo is a way of direct identification. Tattoo is cultural element as any other in this type of society. In polynesia the baptism of the child is the tattoo. To be in the community the polynesian must go through the rites imposed by the tribe. So it becomes family and religious ceremony.
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