Tattoos Have A Long History Ancient World
Although most people tattoos would prefer to forget about the pandemic as soon possible, some have chosen to keep a permanent reminder in the form of a tattoo. These tattoos can be use to remind you of the past year. They depict messages about social distancing, toilet paper shortages and other pandemic-related themes. People who have lost loved ones due to the disease use tattoos to make memorials. Tattoos are not a new phenomenon. They have been use for centuries to express emotions.
I enjoy talking to people about tattoo origins as a tattoo historian. There are many countries mention, such as Japan, China, Japan, South America, or Polynesia. It is fascinating that no one has ever answered the question that tattoos could have originated from North America or Europe in the five years that we have been having these conversations. These answers, along with what they leave out, reveal a deeper truth about tattoo history. The history of tattoos has been heavily influence and shape by racism, oppression and colonialism.
Histories Of Tattoos
Tattooing was a common practice in many parts the ancient world. In ancient Japan as well as Egypt, tattoos were common. For centuries, the Maori of New Zealand have used sacred Ta Moko tattooing to show who they are as individuals and their community.
But, there is no single culture that can claim to have invent the art form. Since antiquity, tattooing was a common practice in Europe and North America. The Greeks depicted their tattooed Thracian neighbours, the Indo-European-speaking people, on their pottery. Roman historians documented complex tattoos on the Picts, an indigenous group living in what is now northern Scotland.
Otzi, the Iceman the oldest known source of tattoos. This 5,300-year-old mummy corps found in the mountains in Italy in 1991. Researchers discovered 2,000-year-old tattoo tools from the Pueblo archaeological site in south eastern Utah. They still retain tattoo ink remnants on the cactus spines that bound with yucca leaf leaves.
Colonization And Tattoos
Steve Gilbert, a tattoo historian, explains that tattoo is actually a mixture of Marquesan-Samoan words (tatau and tutu) to describe these practices. As they shared stories about their adventures, the sailors who explored the Polynesian islands combined these words.
It begs the question, if tattoos have existed in Europe and North America for ages, then why did Western cultures adopt and combine these words instead of using words that existed in their own right? My research reveal that tattoos were use in the 1400s to mark a boundary between colonized Europeans and colonized Africans.
Although tattooing was still practice in Europe, North America and elsewhere, many of these tattooing techniques were push underground when European colonization began. This was partly due to attempts to Christianize parts of Europe through purging towns and villages from pagan and other nonconformist, religious practices including tattooing. Beginning in A.D. 391 and continuing through assimilation campaigns and missionaries, tattoos became un-Christian as Catholic churches expanded their influence.
We Are Not Like That
In the 1400s and 1550s, Western colonizers began to push into Africa, the Pacific Islands, and North and South America. They found whole tribes of tattoo-loving natives. These tattoo people were often cite as evidence that untamed natives require the assistance of good, God-fearing Europeans to become fully human. These tattoo people even taken back to Europe and parade around for profit.
Two such victims were a tattooed Indigenous mother with her son and kidnapped in the late 1600s by explorers from an unknown Canadian location. The advertisement handbill at the time stated. Let’s thank Almighty God that he has declared his self to us through his Word, so we are not like those savages or man-eaters.
These enslaved humans would be paid to look at, making their captors a healthy income and reinforcing the need for European expansion. The destruction of the cultures from which they were taken had a direct impact on their tattoos. Leaders and holy people are often the most tattooed. It is important to note that most captives died within a few months of arriving in Europe. They were often afflicted by foreign disease or malnourishment, and their slavers didn’t feed them.
The tattooed, savage narrative was further pushed when tattooed people began to show themselves at circus and carnival freak shows. They not only promoted the idea that tattoos were savage and othering through their performances as freaks, but they also created tragic backstories. They claimed that they were forcibly tattooed and attacked by marginalized groups, including Native Americans, who the public considered savages.
American Nora Hildebrandt was one such performer. Nora told the story of her capture by Native Americans, who tattooed it on her. It was more tragic than the fact that Martin Hildebrandt, her long time partner, was her tattoo artist. Nora Hildebrandt was especially confuse by her story, since her tattoos featured patriotic symbols like the American flag.
The voices of colonizers continue to echo in the present. Western societies have a lot of stigma attached to tattoos. Tattoos can be view as a poor choice or trashy in Western societies. Recent studies have shown that the stigma persists. Tattoos are art, and they can use to communicate identity. Answering the question, Where did tattoos originate? I would say that they came from everyone, no matter what the early colonizers might have believed.