Ancient tattoos: How was it done, and where does it start?

One of the first arts mastered by humanity is tattoos. Noticing that it got damaged skin, the soot leaves a bizarre mark, and primitive people began to decorate their bodies deliberately.

Ancient tattoos had a deep sacred meaning; symbols served as amulets, influenced fate; the tattoo intends to help a person on his life path.

Brief history of Ancient tattoos

The very word “tattoo” came to us from the Polynesian dialect and means “made according to the rules.” True, there is an assumption that it comes from “tatau” – this is how the verb “strike” sounded in the language of Tahiti’s inhabitants.

Researchers believe that body painting practice existed even in primitive times: the tattoo had both a practical meaning – it helped hide in the thickets during a hunt, and social – it indicated belonging to a particular tribe and status.

What is interesting: after all, people previously did not have the current communication opportunities; as a rule, their social circle did not go beyond the community, but tattoos find in almost all peoples.

Ancient tattoo designs


Ancient tattoos: How was it done, and where does it start?

The oldest tattoos were found during archaeological work in the Egyptian pyramids. The mummies were about five thousand years old, but the drawings on their bodies are visible. Presumably, these were women to whom the priests made marks so that the pregnancy would pass safely.

Maori in New Zealand

Ancient tattoos: How was it done, and where does it start?

Maori in New Zealand adorned the area around the mouth – they believed that this ritual would preserve their youth and beauty.


The Indians pricked themselves drawings with a sharp shark tooth’s help, not only for magical purposes. For example, after a successful hunt for special daredevils, the wives of the elders stuffed images of defeated animals on their skin. The fewer areas of skin left free from tattoos, the more courageous the warrior was considered.

Tattoos are also done on girls on the verge of growing up – usually, they were stripes on the chin and ornaments on the forehead, designed to protect from evil spirits. Women were bound to have patterns on their shoulders after marriage.

Ancient tattoos: How was it done, and where does it start?

The world-famous Princess ukok, found during archaeological excavations in Altai, also had tattoos. Particularly impressive is the shoulder decorated with the image of a deer.

Herodotus wrote that a tattoo is a symbol of the nobility among the Scythians and Thracians. A man with clean skin was a member of the lower class.

Of course, each drawing had a specific meaning. The mythical bird Phoenix called for longevity; dream catchers got rid of negative thoughts, the pelican meant pursuing wisdom and spiritual development. The Celts injected runes that served as talismans. As a sign of silence about initiation, the Pythagoreans used the image of a pentagram inscribed in a circle.

Appearance in Europe

Ancient tattoos: How was it done, and where does it start?

The knowledge of tattoos came to Europe thanks to the navigator James Cook. In 1769, he brought a fully tattooed Polynesian, who was immediately put in a cage and shown to onlookers as a prime example of a savage.

In the age of the many geographical discoveries, Christian countries actively opposed any images on human skin: “… do not make cuts on your body and do not inject letters on yourself.” Nevertheless, during the period of the Islamization of Egypt, the Copts depicted a cross on themselves to distinguish themselves from Muhammad’s followers.

Modern tattoos

Ancient tattoos: How was it done, and where does it start?
©The trend spotter

If the tattoo was still an incredible decoration in the XX century and caused the public’s censure, now you won’t surprise anyone with it – a sure sign that history moves in a circle. Drawings on the body are worn not only by people from places not so distant but also by glamorous divas, homemakers, and sports stars. Of course, there is a surge in popularity among young people.

Today we can state that a tattoo is a sign that you are in trend, at the forefront of fashion. Fortunately, this is still not a mandatory attribute, as it was in primitive tribes, and does not mean indecent and asocial. It all relies on the degree of awareness and responsibility of a particular individual for the symbols placed on the body and the quality of the tattoo. After all, it can be challenging to reduce a boring picture.

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