The interesting history of tattoos

When we think of tattoos, it’s easy to think of them as a modern trend that has parents worrying if their sons or daughters will come home one night with a pattern on the lower back or around the ankle.

But actually the art of tattooing goes back many thousands of years.  The “Iceman, “ the bronze-age hunter who was found frozen in a glacier in the Alps in 1991,  had small tattoos behind his knee and in 56 other places.  The corpse is estimated to be 5,000 years old.  Scientists are studying those small tattoos and speculate they may represent examples of early medical procedures to ward off pain.

The Smithsonian magazine has an interesting article on the Iceman and on ancient tattooing practices.  See Tattoos:  The Ancient and Mysterious History

The word “tattoo” has Polynesian roots.  In Samoa and other places, tattoos are thought to represent a person’s spiritual power and are often very intricate face decorations.

Tattoos are also associated with prisoners in penitentiaries.  Some prisoners are so keen on getting tattooed that they will go to extreme methods to make a permanent marking on their skin.  Court TV reported a few years ago that a prisoner in Canada had a fellow inmate push a guitar string through a Bic pen and then attached it to a Sony Walkman motor to make it move in and out of the skin.

For a look at the history of tattoos, with lots of illustrations, see this link.

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