Tattoos: A history

By Madison Milano
November 28, 2012

Tattoos, like everything else, have their trends. There are certain designs and placements that are considered “in” during certain times. But no matter what, tribal tattoos always seem to be a consideration. No doubt tribal tattoos have an appealing look, but what about their history?

My guess is that most people who have, or consider getting, tribal tattoos do not know why they were used in the first place.

Tattoos date back to ancient Egyptian and Greek times. History shows that the custom of getting and having tattoos used to be a purely female attribute.

Some believe that women used to be marked because they were of “dubious status” – it was the mark of prostitutes or were meant to protect the women against sexually transmitted diseases. Others think that tattoos were used as a type of therapy during pregnancy and birth.

These tattoos consisted mostly of dotted patterns of lines. The Greeks and Romans would use tattoos to mark someone as belonging to a religious sect.

The Maori culture of New Zealand used facial tattoos to mark social status. A lot of tribes, like the Samoans, believed that getting tattoos was the first step in becoming a man. And of course the Native Americans had their tribal tattoos.

Different tribes were known by the tattoos that they had. Markings were different depending on the tribes and regions they were from. For Native Americans, tattoos of animals were common. They used man-made needles and natural pigments for ink.

A common way to give a tattoo consisted of cutting the skin and rubbing charcoal, dark dyes or ink into the cuts.

While the practice of tattoos has certainly changed over the years, tribal tattoos can still be found today. Their original designs of sweeping curves and sharp points that form patterns are still seen mainstream. Some people get them because they like the way they look, others get them to connect with their heritage.

But one thing will remain the same: the prominence of tribal tattoos. While they no longer symbolize belonging to specific tribe or social class, they will always be an option for someone waiting to get inked.

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Madison Milano

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