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The Honorable Art of Tattoo

The art of Tattoo has been around since 12,000 years before Christ and has gone through many years? of judgment by people of different races and cultures. This art form spanned many different cultures with many different meanings and is being transformed today. The outlook of tattoo turned from honorable and elegant to deviant and wrong and is now coming back as an honorable and memorable art form for the people to express their feelings about certain subjects or persons. Tattoo has been used to ward off demons and spirits in early Japan and China. In ancient times, honorable and well respected men told of unforgettable journeys, battles, and even showed memorials to lost loves with tattoo, still today men and women decorate their whole body with tattoos in the same manner.

1 Evidence exists of the art of Tattoo used in many ways, from religious stature to eroticism, 12,000 years before the birth of Christ. At first, tattoo was demeaning to the people until they sought education about the art, found it to be a respectable way praise their gods or goddesses in art and after a few years of criticism they concluded to accept it as a part of their ritual practices. Tattooing quickly became a part of many cultures in Asia, Europe, and Africa. Asia and Africa have records showing evidence of Tattoo that predates most records found elsewhere and also shows that Nubians possibly created the art of Tattoo. They have pictures drawn on rocks of women bearing several tattoos on many different areas of their body and it is said that most of the tattoos were markings for sacrificial virgins and signs of fertility. Many cultures use Tattoo as a way to pay tribute to their lords and kings and to tell of great courage and bravery.

China and Japan influenced many other nations to take in the art of Tattoo. 2 In the Jomon period, there are findings of Doju figurines with intricate designs around the mouth resembling Tattoo. The figurines exhibit female traits such as sexual organs, breasts or indications of pregnancy. Evidence of the first male tattoo is found in Chinese text during the Yayoi Period, 3 ?Men, young and old, all tattoo their faces and decorate their bodies with designs….A son of the ruler of Shao-k’ang of Hsia, when he was offered as lord of K’ uai-chi, cut his hair and decorated his body with designs in order to avoid the attack of serpents and dragons. The Wa (Japanese), who are fond of diving into water to get fish and shells, also decorated their bodies in order to keep away large fish and waterfowl. Later, however, the designs became merely ornamental. Designs on the body differ in the various countries…. their position and size vary according to the rank of the individual.? 4 In the Kofun Period, tattoo transformed into a meaningful art form. Tattoo was printed on men of high status and wealth, many monks and samurais were also tattooed to show their ranking and combat skills so when people looked upon them, they could be recognized as very powerful men and not be challenged.

In Ancient Egypt tattoo, symbolized fertility, caste, and marriage. Only women in this culture could wear tattoos because law forbade men to wear tattoo of any sort. Three female Egyptian mummies gave evidence that tattoo was used in religious and ceremonial rituals. 5 Egyptians used the dash-dot method, which was contrived from the Nubians, just a few thousand miles away. The Nubians used abstract geometrical designs in blue or blue-black ink for their tattoos; the Egyptians used the same style but put meaning behind their ink.

6 In 1691 tattoo reemerged in Europe with William Dampier?s Painted Prince from the South Seas. Prince Giolo the Painted Prince became the largest money making exhibit in England for his full body tattoos. 7 In the late 1700?s Europe was in awe of the art of Tattoo, when William Cook a very well known sailor, made several trips to the South Pacific bringing back many kinds of art and trinkets which display tribal tattoo. On the second trip he brought a man from Polynesia ?The Great Omnai?, bearing tribal tattoo designs over his whole body, which made him a popular exhibit for the people of England. The people of Europe, Asia, Africa, and all over the world still practice this honorable art form with many different meanings, some get tattoos to belong to certain organizations, some to tell of great journeys they made, and most get tattoos as a memorial to lost and present loves.


1 http://www.muohio.edu/~taylorw1/culture.htmlx

2 (1969) “Tattoos of the Jomon People”

3 Goodrich 1951:10 (Wei Chih) History of Wei, part of the (San Kuo Chih) History of the Three Kingdoms, and (Hou Han Shu) History of the Later Han.

4 http://www.muohio.edu/~taylorw1/Asian.htmlx

5 http://www.muohio.edu/~taylorw1/Egyptian.htmlx

6 http://www.muohio.edu/~taylorw1/earlyamerica.htmlx

7 Krakow, 1994

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