In 1769 the English Captain James Cook, arriving in Tahiti, observing and noting the customs of the local population transcribed for the first time the word Tattow (and Tattoo), derived from the term “tau-tau”, because it remembered the noise produced by tapping the timber on the needle to pierce the skin.
But tattooing is a practice of ancient origin … origins of more than 5000 years.
The oldest evidence comes from the Italian-Austrian border, where in 1991, the Alps Otzalet, was found the frozen body of a man and well preserved that scientists believe to have lived about 5300 years ago.
Otzi, as this was nicknamed, had real tattoos in various parts of the body , obtained by rubbing pulverized coal on vertical incisions on the skin.
The x-rays revealed bone degeneration at these cuts, it is thought, therefore, that at the time, the locals practiced this form of tattoo for therapeutic purposes, to soothe the pain.
In the later years, the tattoos assumed other meanings.
The ancient Egyptian funerary paintings show tattoos on the bodies of the dancers, tattoos also found on some female mummies (2000 BC).The Celts worshiped gods animals such as the bull, boar, cat, birds and fish that as signs of devotion would be drawn as symbols on the skin.
Among the ancient Romans, who firmly believed in the purity of the human body, tattooing was forbidden and only used as a tool to mark criminals and convicted, and only then, after the battles with the British who wore tattoos as distinguishing marks of honor, some Roman soldiers began to admire the ferocity and strength of the enemy as much as the signs leading to the body … and began to tattoo themselves on the skin as distinguishing marks. Among the first Christians was rather widespread practice of their faith have a Christ’s cross tattooed on the forehead.
In 787 A.D. Pope Hadrian forbade the use of the tattoo.
In the eleventh and twelfth century crusaders brought on the body the mark of the Cross of Jerusalem, which allowed, in case of death on the battlefield, to ensure that the soldier would receive the appropriate burial according to Christian rites.
After the Crusades, the tattoo seems to disappear from Europe, but continues to flourish in other continents.In the early 1700s, European sailors come into contact with the indigenous people of the islands of Central and South Pacific, where the tattoo had an important cultural value. When the Thaitian girls reached sexual maturity their buttocks were tattooed in black.
When suffering, Hawaiians tattooed three points on the tongue. In Borneo the natives tattooed an eye on the palms as a spiritual guide that would help them in the transition to the afterlife. In Samoa, they inhabitants were spreading the “pe’a” tattoo all over their bodies that required five days to endure the pain but it was courage and inner strength. To succeed, who was honored with a big party. From the notes of Cook (1769), we know that one of the main methods used by Tahitians for tattooing was to use a sharp shell attached to a stick. In New Zealand the Maori signed their treaties drawing faithful replicas of their “moko”, personalized facial tattoos. These moko are still used to identify the bearer as belonging to a certain family or symbolize the achievements throughout their lives. In the twenties of the nineteenth century began the grisly practice of trading guns with tattooed heads of Maori warriors. To meet the demand of the slave traders even came to be tattooed natives captured in battle and then kill them and sell their heads. Only in 1831 the British government finally declares unlawful the importation of human heads (!).
In Japan, tattooing was practiced as early as the fifth century BC … for aesthetic purposes … but also magical and to mark criminals.
Curious to know that the birth of the great tattoos eastern know today is due to the imposition of harsh repressive laws in ancient Japan which prohibited the people of lower rank to bring kimonos decorated. As a sign of rebellion, these same people began to bring hidden under the clothes, huge tattoos that covered the whole body starting from the neck to get to the elbows and knees. The government in 1870 outlawed this practice considered subversive, but the tattoo continued to flourish and prosper in the shade.
Easy to understand how the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia, gladly adopted the practice of “outlaws” of the tattoo on the body. Their designs, elaborate, were usually reproduced unresolved conflicts but also symbols of qualities and characteristics that these men wanted to emulate. For example, a carp represented strength and perseverance, a lion ability to perform brave deeds.
The 1891 is another very important date … the New York inventor Samuel O’Reilly patented the first electric tattoo machine, suddenly making obsolete the previous techniques, slower and especially much more painful.
In the 20 circuses Americans are more than 300 people tattooed from head to foot as attractions for the public.
For half a century, the tattoo became mark of ethnic minorities, sailors, veterans of war, criminals, prisoners … and considered indices of backwardness and mental disorder. In the 70s and 80s movements such as punk and bikers take the tattoo as a symbol of rebellion against the moral precepts preached by the company.
In the modern times the tatoo has a value purely aesthetic, or is inked in memory of an important moment of our life, or express the desire for a return to origins, to old and deep values that modern society seems to have forgotten. The art of tattooing alive today a time of rebirth, finally getting rid of the layer of prejudices in which for decades has been trapped.