Tattoos: The Beauty Within Throughout history tattoos have been used for many different purposes. They have also been criticized for being placed on the human body. People throughout history have been assigning their own beliefs to tattoos. Some beliefs, even when strange to others, have a substantial value to the person whose choice it is to have admiration for a symbol. History shows that tattoos represent diversity in significance and opinions; this diversity is reflected through a person’s values, culture and judgment. John Barker said, “There are different motivations in different locations at different times. I believe he has the best description of the reasoning behind tattoos. Who ever came up with the thought of placing ink under the skin to signify a moment in time, special event in their life, or whichever the reason was, was thinking outside the box. There have been many different phases of personal expression throughout history and woven throughout cultures like fabrics in an eccentric Turkish rug. The only constant that tattoos have had threw out the thousands of years, is that it is forever evolving different meanings for different people.
Someone, somewhere, in some point in time has had an opinion or use of a tattoo. The first proof of tattooing on a human dates back between 3350 and 3100 B. C. That is 5,000 years ago. Discovered in the Alps in South Tyrol, Italy in September of 1991, Otzi “the ice man” had over 50 tattoos placed in different areas of his body. Some were along his wrist and ankles. Others were placed along his back. Form the unique placing of his tattoos, anthropologist think his tattoos were used for therapeutic treatment and not symbolic like most tribal tattoos.
Otzi tattoos were made by fine incisions into which charcoal was rubbed (Demetz). There is very little chance of ever knowing the true reason behind the how or the why of Neanderthal tattooing. It is still very interesting to know their culture felt it an important practice. The remains of an Egyptian priestess named Amunet were discovered by Archaeologists near Thebes in Egypt. Her 4,000 year-old mummified body was tattooed with several lines and dots across her abdomen, thighs, and breasts- similar to those found on Otzi but in different locations.
Researchers believe these tattoos were associated with ritualistic religious practices. When tattooing was adopted by Roman soldiers in their foreign fields of battle it again became something different. What started as a mark of camaraderie and identification was later banned by Roman Emperor Constantine around Anno Domini 325. He declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire and according to Christian dogma at the time, tattoos were a disfigurement of that made in God’s image – similar to present day Islamic belief.
The purity of the human body became an integral part of Roman belief and even the use of tattoos as brands for criminals or the condemned became unpopular and vulgar. A description of tattoo techniques and a formula for tattoo ink was found in an ancient transcript named Medicae Artis Principles. The text was written by the sixth century Roman physician Aetius Amidenus and there are some that believe that Aetius copied it from the lost Library of Alexandria. This and other evidence suggests that tattooing existed far earlier in the area than popular belief. M. W.
Thomson, a Biblical scholar, suggests that Moses barrowed tattooing from the Arabs and introduced it as a way to memorialize the liberation of Jewish slaves in Egypt. Religious extremism is commonly affiliated with symbolic tattoos and the Crusades were no exception. Crusaders who reached the Holy Land in the 11th and 12th centuries had crosses tattooed on their arms. Some believe the mark of the Jerusalem cross was tattooed simply as a souvenir of their travels. Others believe it was the thought of receiving a Christian burial in the event they died in battle, which led many to mark their bodies permanently.
In Anno Domini 787, Pope Hadrian the First forbade the marking of skin. This became a tradition for the popes that followed and the Church continued to prohibit tattooing until the 19th century. Tattooing is almost nonexistent in Christian History because of this and researchers have only speculation and small amounts of evidence to draw conclusions. Despite the efforts of Constantine and the Church, some evidence of the many uses of the tattoo by Christianity still exists today and many present day Christians use tattoos to symbolize their faith.
Captain James Cook landed in the Polynesian islands in 1769 and encountered inhabitants with an entirely different view of tattooing. The Polynesian peoples had colonized most of the habitable islands east of Samoa by Anno Domini 1,000 and tattoo styles based on separate unique cultures evolved on each of the island groups. Some of the inhabitants believed that a person’s manna, their spiritual power or life force, is displayed through their tattoo. Others such as the warrior class in Hawaii and the Marquesas Islands used the tattoo as a form of camouflage.
Traditional Hawaiian tattoo art, known as ‘kakau’, was used to guard ones health and spiritual well-being. Intricate patterns of natural forms were tattooed across the arms, legs, torso and face. Some of them were worn for decoration and merit. The traditional island tattoos of today are symbolic of this heritage and embellishment. Captain Cook’s encounter birthed the rise of naval tattoos. Members of Cook’s crew were the first European sailors to acquire Polynesian tattoos and soon the British Navy had sailors returning home with permanent souvenirs of their travels to distant lands.
Unlike the Romans, sailors and eventually every branch of the military embraced this soon to be tradition. Soon tattoo parlors were present in every European port city. The tattoos ranged from unit identification and shared camaraderie to lucky charms meant to save them from alcohol and complex relationships. Modern day military tattoos are a traditional form of pride for members of the armed services. Tattoos are controversial, symbolic and significant. Tattoos have been used throughout history by many different cultures. They have maintained a status in present day history for many different people for many different reasons.
A variety of people view a tattoo as a sin, disgrace, or just plain tacky to have on the human body. Churches throughout history and cultures have used tattoos as scapegoats, for sinner’s actions. The churches have also used them in certain religious practices. Cultures throughout the world, in past and present times, have had multiple meaning associated with the various types of tattoo designs. Depending on the tattoos location on the body, pattern, and/or sex of the person, can signify different skills, Statius, and or the titles held in certain tribes around the world.
In modern day western cultures, many people have decided to get a tattoo to signify a specific memory, as tribute to a love one who has passed, and/or just because they like the design of the tattoo. It’s a person’s own perspective to look inside one’s self and choose to see the beauty within the art of a tattoo. Whether people see tattoos as a sin or a work of art, Tattoos have earned their place in history. Works Cited “Tattoo. ” Word Histories and Mysteries. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. Credo Reference. Web. 20 February 2011. “The Ancient and Mysterious History. History & Archaeology. Cate Lineberry. Smithsonian, 01 January 2007. Web. 20 February 2011. “Painted Past: Borneo’s Traditional Tattoos. ” National Geographic Channel. Sharon Guynup. June 18, 2004. Web. 21 February 2011. “Tattoos-From Taboo to Mainstream. ” National Geographic News. Brian Handwerk. October 11, 2002. Web. 25 February 2011. “The Guide. ” Stefan Demetz, The South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, 1998. “History of Tattoos – Tribal Tattoos – Tattoos Today. ” Freetattoodesigns. org. Web. 20 February 2011. “Tattoo History – India. ” Tattoojoy. com. Web. 20 February 2011.