Tattoo - A History of Body Markings

One wonders about the beginning of tattoo when the canvass on which is it painted on is the human skin, which easily disintegrates once lifeless. Thanks to the mummification practice of earlier civilizations, the beginning of body markings was ascertained and we now have a clearer idea of when and how tattooing started.

Mummies have been found from Nubia in Africa to Peru in South America, Siberia and Polynesia. These mummies became famous not only because of the discovery of their tattoos but that of the surrounding circumstance where they were found.

The most known tattooed mummy was the bronze man nicknamed Otzi. The name was given due to icy region where he was discovered. It was ascertained that Otzi lived sometime 3300 b.c.e. The material that covered his body showed clearly the presence of dark blue tattoos placed many times in different areas of Otzi. There were symmetrical lines which were grouped and situated in the lumbar region and his ankles.
Otzi even had a cross marking on the inside of his knees.

Even with the discovery of the practice of tattoo as starting in the ancient times, little has been known about the reason why there was even a practice like body markings. It can only be intimated that the practice of tattooing stems from a religious belief or as a social tradition to identify classes or castes or they could even be medicinal in nature. Whatever the reason, another discovery that of Amunet said to be a priestess at Thebes also showed the same symmetrical dot lines at her upper arms. However, the concentration of the symmetrical dot lines were found in her abdomen below her navel in rounded lines.

During the Iron age, several spectacular discoveries were also unearthed. These tattooed mummies are from the tribe or culture called Pazyryk or wandering horsemen. These gypsies were hunters and warriors in the plain region of Siberia. One mummy worthy of mention is that who was merely known as the chief. There was an abundance of grave goods found alongside his body. The tattoos found in his body includes that of large animals as well as those of domesticated type. The tattoos were located mostly in his spine which is reminiscent of that of Otzi. Still belonging to the same culture was the mummy of a young woman having similar designs as that of the chief.

Whatever the symbolism, it is apparent that tattoos started out as just as collection of dots and lines that have progressed to grander designs in the current times.

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