Tattoo History


Tattoo History is intended to provide you with a wide sampling of the rich, diverse history of tattooing and the amazing culture of tattoos around the world. We hope that these tattoo articles and links represent some of the best information available about Tattoo History today. We welcome any of your ideas and suggestions and we are always looking for quality submissions.

Check out our very own Tattoo History Museum

Check out these great tattoo history articles by Lars Krutak.

Tribal Tattooing in California and the American Southwest
Tattooed Tribes of the Amazon
Tattooing in North Africa, The Middle East and Balkans
Tattoos of Indochina: Supernatural Mysteries of the Flesh
India: Land of Eternal Ink
Wen Shen: The Vanishing Art of Chinese Tribal Culture
The Kalinga Batok (Tattoo) Festival
The Art of Magical Tattoos
Tattoos of the early hunter-gatherers of the Arctic
Piercing and Penetration in the Arctic
The Last Tattoos of St. Lawrence Island
North America's Tattooed Indian Kings
Tribal tattoos of Papua New Guinea
Sacred skin - tattoos of Easter Island
Kosovo: Tattoo Art Amid the Ruins
Four Tattoo Artists in Havana, Cuba
At The Tail of the Dragon: The Vanishing Tattoos of China's Li People
Tribal Tattoos of Mozambique's Makonde
The Oldest Tattoo Shop in Greece
Return of the Headhunters: The Philippine Tattoo Revival
Torches for the Afterlife: Women Tattoo Artists of Northern Borneo
Vladimir Smith - Dermografo Skin Artist) de Tepic, Mexico
The Mundurucú: Tattooed Warriors of the Amazon Jungle
Tattooing Among Japan's Ainu People
Tattooing in the Gran Chaco of South America
Many Stitches for Life: The Antiquity of Thread and Needle Tattooing

ANCIENT TATTOOS: Theories of Heaven and Earth
Read PJ Reece's history of ancient tattoos.

Check out this incredible historical Haida tattoo find!!
Amazing Discovery of Early Haida "Tattooing Kit" at Smithsonian Institution

Socializing Bodies: A History of the Tattoo - An excellent article the covers the history of tattoos and their significance in the culture of today.

Skin & Bones - Tattoos in the Life of the American Sailor a provocative exhibit that delves into the beliefs, mysteries, traditions, and power of the tattoo in American maritime culture, premiered at Independence Seaport Museum April 24, 2009. Seaport members could preview the exhibit April 23 during an invitation-only cocktail reception. Skin & Bones ran through February 7, 2010.

Historically, all Amazonian tribes were identified by unique facial tattoos.
The Matsés have accentuated lines tattooed on their faces to identify them as members of their tribe. The Movement in the Amazon for Tribal Subsistence and Economic Sustainability (MATSES) is an organization of the Matsés tribe offering assistance to the Matsés people. The non-profit organization was formed so that this native Amazonian tribe can conserve their native culture and indigenous communal reserve in a sustainable and autonomous manner.   

Amazon Indians Native Tribe Photos | Videos - Introduction to Amazon native tribes of the Rainforest. Source for photos and videos of Amazon Indian tribes and indigenous people of the Amazon, including photo gallery and images.

Smithsonian Magazine - TATTOOS - The Ancient and Mysterious History  Humans have marked their bodies with tattoos for thousands of years. These permanent designs—sometimes plain, sometimes elaborate, always personal—have served as amulets, status symbols, declarations of love, signs of religious beliefs, adornments and even forms of punishment.

Mummy of Tattooed Woman Discovered in Peru Pyramid - An exquisitely preserved and elaborately tattooed mummy of a young woman has been discovered deep inside a mud-brick pyramid in northern Peru, archaeologists from Peru and the U.S. announced... (See photos of the mummy from National Geographic magazine.)

Tattooed mummy, baptized the Lady of Cao, discovered in Peru
May 16, 2006. Source: MSN News, AP, National Geographic
Tattooed mummy puzzles scientists in Peru. They say items found alongside female hint that she was a warrior...

Tribal Tattoo History - a sampling of early tribal tattoo designs from around the world starting in Egypt 2000BC

Tribalsite -- A forum for traditional tribal cultures, ethnographic art, and alternative natural remedies, from around the world. -- is a photographic resource that supports tribal survival, the defense of human rights and cultural autonomy of indigenous people.

Tribaltrappings - Specializes in the artifacts of the world's tribal cultures especially those in SE Asia, Indonesia, Central Asia and the Middle East. Check tattoo items in Antiques/Tools & Weapons.

Australian Museum's - Body Art -- about universality, diversity and antiquity: concepts of beauty: identity and transformation: meaning and significance of symbols: and pain, endurance and rites of passage.

Early Archaeological Evidence of Tattoos in Neolithic Europe -- An ancient clay figure of the lower half of a male body believed to date back to the Stone Age has been discovered in eastern Germany, archaeologists said... The statue, dubbed the Adonis of Zschernitz, details a male body from the waist to the calves, and is the first such representation of a man to be found in the area, believed to date from 5,000 BC. The Adonis also has deliberate cuts along its bottom, which, Miss Oexle said, are not indications of clothing but probably represent tattoos...

Skin Stories - The Art and Culture of Polynesian Tattoo --  Skin Stories is an anthology of stories and stunning images gathered from the hot spots of Pacific tattoo: from the steaming landscape of Rotorua in New Zealand to the vibrant gathering of the first international tattoo convention in Apia, Samoa; from the terraced, lush taro fields of Maui to the golden beaches of O'ahu and California.

Samoa - Tattoos -- Some basic information about the tattooing procedure in Samoa. Drawings of tattoos from Samoa, a photograph of the implements used in Samoa for tattooing and the traditional song sung in Samoa while men are receiving the pe'a

TATAU: THE TAHITIAN REVIVAL -- Tricia Allen's 1998 article on the revival of the Tahitian tattoo

Tongan Tatatau tradition -- Dedicated to preserving a once important part of Tongan culture, in an area that is usually associated with Samoan or Tahitian traditions.

Easter Island Tattoos -- Some of the traditional designs and bit of history

History-induced Stigma: The Role of Tattoos in Japanese Society -- Excellent overview of the history of tattooing in Japan, the current feelings about having a tattoo and much more! Well written and researched -- recommended reading!

The Art of the Japanese Tattoo -- The Japanese tattoo is an ancient art. Haniwa, small clay figurines, some bearing facial tattoos, have been found in tombs that date from the fourth or fifth century. It is thought that the tattoo signified social rank or warded off evil spirits and wild animals. Over time, the custom faded and it became the fate of criminals, in the old Chinese manner, to be tattooed on the face as a form of punishment.

Tattoo History and Culture in early Japan -- The most comprehensive record of early Japan that remains was written by the Chinese some time before A.D. 300. It portrays the Japanese as law-abiding people, fond of drink, concerned with divination and ritual purity, familiar with agriculture (including wet-rice cultivation), expert at fishing and weaving, and living in a society where social differences were expressed through the use of tattooing or other bodily markings.

Ancient Egyptian Tattoos -- Written records, physical remains, and works of art relevant to Egyptian tattoo have virtually been ignored by earlier Egyptologists influenced by prevailing social attitudes toward the medium.

Beauty Secrets of the Egyptians -- Tattoos in Ancient Egypt, this article is devoted to ancient and permanent body adornment.

Body Piercing, Tattoos and the Image of God -- Sermon given April 24, 1998, by Rabbi Barry H. Block

Christians, Tattoos and Piercings -- Can a Christian have a Tattoo?

Religion and Spirituality -- I started my search by looking for the word "tattoo" in the Bible. The King James Version never mentions it, and the New International Version and the New King James Version mention it only once, in Leviticus 19:28...

Tattoos in India -- Tattooing is widely practiced among the Adivasis of Madhya Pradesh

Tattoo in Chinese history -- tattoo is called "Wen Shen" or "Ci Shen" in Chinese. The term means literally "puncture the body".

Tattooed Royalty -- An 1898 article titled "Queer Stories of a Queer Craze" by R. J. Stephen published in The Harmsworth Monthly Pictorial Magazine.

Tattoo History Source Book -- Steve Gilbert's extensively researched site has a lot of info

A Unique Part of History -- At one time tattoos were only accepted among sailors, bikers or freaks. Today it seems like almost everyone has a tattoo. Hell, your mom's probably got one in a place you don't want to know about...

North America's Wichita Tribe -- Historical overview of the Wichita people that includes mention of their tattooing practices

NOVA Online -- Ice Mummies: Siberian Ice Maiden -- Some of the earliest examples of tattooing

NOVA Online -- Transcripts | Ice Mummies: Return of the Iceman -- Resource for scientific discovery, travel, exploration, photography, maps, and news, featuring multimedia applications, live webcams, educational tools, and an online store from the National Geographic Society.

American Museum of Modern History -- Body Art: Marks of Identity  Lots of facts and resources

The National Museum of Natural History -- Smithsonian Institution

The Museum of Anthropology at U.B.C. -- information about and access to cultural objects from around the world, with emphasis on the achievements and concerns of the First Peoples and British Columbia's cultural communities


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