Body modification is an art of ancient origin. It is said that the history of tattoos dates back more than 5,000 years before Christ. Basically, body tattooing was practiced in Europe and Asia with varied significance.
Matter of fact, carbon tattoos dating some 5,000 years ago from the body of an Iceman in the Otzal Alps discovered on September 1991 on the border of Austria and Italy consisted of “dots and lines on his lower spine, behind his left knee, and on his right ankle.”
Scientists believed that the tattoos on the Iceman’s body have medicinal value since those were dots along nerve centers of the body. In modern times, the Iceman’s body “dots and lines” are likened to the famous nerve center lines employed in acupuncture.
Tattooing is done using indelible ink that penetrates through the skin using sharp and pointed objects. One could not imagine how humans of the Neolithic age, as in the Iceman, could have invented the art of tattooing.
History of Tattooing
There is no immediate or historical explanation on how the ancient people got their intrinsically artistic designs and creative interpretation of body tattooing. In fact, the absence of modern technology that current skin art is employing today makes one wonders how the people of the olden times come to invent such an artistic medium that persist through the ages.
Although its aesthetic value remains, tattooing today is considered more of symbolism than a tradition. To modern civilization, it represents the character of the “blue jean” generation.
Old Naval Tattoos
Throughout history some considered tattoos for group identification such as fraternity and exclusive organizations. Most enlisted navy personnel of the United States Navy have official US Navy tattoos in their arms to signify that they are part of that elite navy organization.
Perhaps, the US Navy must have derived this practice from seafarers of the past whose recovered bodies in the seas bore tattoos bearing their identification. Even the Nazi employed tattoos to identify those who were imprisoned in Nazi’s infamous camps during World War I.
History of Tattoos in Western Culture
Be that as it may, tattoo artists are today employing sophisticated instruments and many colors of pigments far from the traditional and historical black-colored tattoo. The traditional black tattoo color has metamorphosed into various colorful designs of red, yellow, green and multi-colored inks which are now commercially available.
Whereas in the history of tattoos inks must have been taken from sap and leaves of woods, modern day tattoo inks are manufactured with care and tested to make sure these are sterilized and safe. At least, there are more than a dozen kinds of tattoo inks which are commercially available today.
In any case, tattooing has been part of human civilization in the past, present and certainly in the future. The history of tattoos may vary in interpretation depending on the culture and tradition of a country, tribe or individual.
But, for as long as civilization exists, body modification will always be part of human existence. Yet, no matter how the modern millennium altered the interpretation of tattooing, its mystical origin shall remain a guarded secret of the ancient times.