The word tattoo comes from the Tahitian “tatu” which means “to mark something.”
The purpose of tattooing the skin differs from culture to culture. The Greeks used tattooing for communication among spies. Markings identified the spies and showed their rank. Romans authors mentioned tattooing as punishment.The Ainu people of western Asia used tattooing to show social status.
The oldest tattoo has been found on the European Iceman Mummy ” Oetzi” from the bronze age. In 1991 discovery of the “Iceman” in the Alps, whose corpse dates back about 5,300 years. The tattoos marked her status in life, which was confirmed by the objects, animals and warriors who were buried next to her as well, to safeguard and ease her journey into the afterlife.
According to wikipeida Other tattooed mummies have been recovered from at least 49 archaeological sites including locations in Greenland, Alaska, Siberia, Mongolia, western China, Egypt, Sudan, the Philippines, and the Andes.
Let’s take a look at 8 such ancient tattoo cultures from around the world.
1. Polynesia, Samoan Culture
Samoans have practiced the art of tattooing both men and women for over 2,000 years. In the traditional Samoan culture man tattoo was called pe’a and women tattoos called malu.
And the covering body area is different for man and women. For the men tattoos covering area from the waist up to the knees and for the women covering area just below knees up to the upper part of the thighs are different with more delicate motifs not seen on men.
In the ancient time the tattoo master of Samoan is called tufuga ta tatau and used tools made up of bone, tusks and shells to place the patterns into the skin but today, bottled ink is used with modern tattoo needles.
2. New Zealand, Maori Tribe
Men and women from the Maori tribe cover their faces with intricate tattoos, sometimes even their lips, chin and nostrils. James Cook wrote in detail about it them in 1769. Originally from Eastern Polynesia, Maori people used tattoos to indicate social status. The tattooists used to be considered inviolable and sacred.
The art of tattooing has been known in China for thousands of years. Tattooing in China is called Ci Shen (Or Wen Shen), a term that means literally “puncture the body.”
There are the many Chinese tattoos but the most popular Chinese tattoo designs are the kanji. Kanji is the symbols of love, prosperity, blessing, beauty and many more.
Traditional Japanese irezumi (insert ink) differs from other types of tattooing. The tattoos are also full of symbolic meaning.
Before the Edo period (1603-1868), tattoos were used as a means of prison punishment. In the 18th Century, they became popular in Japan’s red light districts and began to incorporate figures from historical texts. Japanese tattoos, are somewhat similar to Chinese ones.
Sak means tattoo in Thai, and yan is the Thai pronunciation for the Sanskrit word yantra. Sak Yant tattoos have been around for over 2000 years.
Yantra tattoos are symbole of magic and bestow mystical powers, protection, or good luck. In the Thailand tattoo needles are attached to bamboo rods, and the ink is hand-tapped into the skin.
The practice of tattooing began in Mexico around the 12th century and has always included symbols and designs that represent a sense of pride regarding their roots.
In the 1990s tattooed mummies are found in the burial mounds on the Ukok plateau which were 500 BC. Their tattooing involved animal designs carried out in a curvilinear style.
The Man of Pazyryk (culture) is tattooed with an extensive and detailed range of fish, monsters and a series of dots that lined up along the spinal column and around the right ankle.
Persia tattooo have been around for thousands of years. The most famous story of tattooing in Persian literature goes back 800 years to a tale by Rumi about a man who wanted a lion tattoo but changes his mind once he experiences the pain of the needle.
Tattooing is common among many traditional communities especially among the Kandhas of Odisha. They believe that tattoo develop resistance power in the body. Kandhas tattoo their hands, feet, forehead, and legs as mark of decoration.
The designs were different for men and woman. Most of the girls and women of the tribal communities are tattooed. In older days, it was a shame for the Kandha girls not to have tattooing marks on their face to be essential tattooing is considered recognition basically it was compulsory for the young maidens after marriage. A black dot on the forehead of chin protects women folk from the evil eyes.
Apatani tattooing In ancient times, young girls in Arunachal Pradesh were tattooed in order to protect them from rival tribes who would otherwise abduct the beautiful women. They was using thorns to cut the skin and soot mixed in animal fat to fill in the deep blue colour. The wounds were then allowed to get infected so that the tattoos became larger, darker and clearer. In the 1970s Indian government ban.
The Singhpo Tribe of Assam and Arunachal had distinct rules for tattooing each gender. The married women were tattooed on both legs from the ankles to the knees, while the men tattooed their hands. The unmarried Singpho girls were no supposed to wear tattoos.
Another important tattooed tradition was followed by the headhunting Konyaks Tribe of Nagaland. They tattooed their faces to indicate their prowess in battle and headcount. Tattoos also helped in establishing tribal identity in the region, besides enabling recognition after death in a war or fatal accident.
Nocte Tribe tattoo
Tattoos were very prevalent among the warlike tribes of the northeast such as the the Noctes and Wanchos of Arunachal. They too regarded tattoos as a sign of strength, courage, and virility because of the pain associated with the piercing process.