A tattoo is a mark made by inserting pigment into the skin; in technical terms, tattooing is micro-pigment implantation. Tattoos may be made on human or animal skin. Tattoos on humans are a type of body modification, while tattoos on animals are most commonly used for identification. Tattooing has been practiced worldwide. The Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan, wore facial tattoos. Tattooing was widespread among Polynesian peoples, and among certain tribal groups in the Philippines, Borneo, Africa, North America, South America, Mesoamerica, Europe, Japan, Cambodia and China. Despite some taboos surrounding tattooing, the art continues to be popular all over the world. It is commonly believed that the original root word of 'tattoo' comes from the Samoan or the Tahitian word tatau, meaning to mark or strike twice (the latter referring to traditional methods of applying the designs).
The first syllable "ta", meaning "hand", is repeated twice as an onomatopoeic reference to the repititive nature of the action, and the final syllable "U" translates to "color".The instrument used to pierce the skin in Polynesian tattooing is called a hahau, the syllable "ha" meaning to "strike or pierce".(This is not to be confused with the origins of the word for the military drumbeat.The first closest known usage of the word in English was recorded in the diary of Captain James Cook in 1769 during his voyage to the Marquesas Islands. The text reads, “...they print signs on people’s body and call this tattaw”, referring to the Polynesian customs.
Sailors on the voyage later introduced both the word and the concept of tattooing to Europe In Japanese the word used for traditional designs or those that are applied using traditional methods is irezumi ("insertion of ink"), while "tattoo" is used for non-Japanese designs Tattoo enthusiasts may refer to tattoos as tats, ink, art, or work, and to tattooists as artists. The latter usage is gaining greater support, with mainstream art galleries holding exhibitions of tattoo designs and photographs of tattoos. Tattoo designs that are mass-produced and sold to tattoo artists and studios and displayed in shop are known as flash Tattooing has been a Eurasian practice at least since Neolithic times. Mummies bearing tattoos and dating from the end of the second millennium BCE have been discovered at Pazyryk on the Ukok Plateau.
Tattooing in Japan is thought to go back to the Paleolithic era, some ten thousand years ago. Various other cultures have had their own tattoo traditions, ranging from rubbing cuts and other wounds with ashes, to hand-pricking the skin to insert dyes. Tattoos have served as rites of passage, marks of status and rank, symbols of religious and spiritual devotion, decorations for bravery, sexual lures and marks of fertility, pledges of love, punishment, amulets and talismans, protection, and as the marks of outcasts, slaves and convicts. Today, people choose to be tattooed for cosmetic, religious and magical reasons, and as a symbol of belonging to or identification with particular groups (see Criminal tattoos). Tattoos of favorite bands and football teams' logos are fairly common in the west. Some Maori still choose to wear intricate moko on their faces. In Cambodia and Thailand, the yantra tattoo is used for protection. People have also been forcibly tattooed for a various reasons. The best known is the ka-tzetnik identification system for Jews in part of the concentration camps during the Holocaust.
European sailors were known to tattoo the crucifixion on their backs to prevent flogging (since it was a crime to deface an image of Christ). Tattoos are also placed on animals, though very rarely for decorative reasons. Pets, show animals, thoroughbred horses and livestock are sometimes tattooed with identification and other marks. Pet dogs and cats are often tattooed with a serial number (usually in the ear, or on the inner thigh) via which their owners can be identified. In Australia, the symbol ? is tattooed in the ears of cats and dogs to indicate that they have been spayed or neutered. Also, animals are occasionally tattooed to prevent sunburn (on the nose, for example). Such tattoos are often performed by a veterinarian and in most cases the animals are anaesthetized during the process. Branding is used for similar reasons and is often performed without anaesthesia, but is different from tattooing as no ink or dye is inserted during the process. When used as a form of cosmetic surgery, tattooing includes permanent makeup, and hiding or neutralize skin discolorations. Permanent cosmetics are tattoos that enhance eyebrows, lips (liner or lipstick), eyes (shadow, mascara, liner), and even moles, usually with natural colors as the designs are intended to resemble makeup.
Tattoos have experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent decades in many parts of the world, particularly in North America, Japan, and Europe. The growth in tattoo culture has seen an influx of new artists into the industry, many of whom have technical and fine art training. Coupled with advancements in tattoo pigments and the ongoing refinement of the equipment used for tattooing, this has led to an improvement in the quality of tattoos being produced. Movie stars, models, popular musicians and sports figures are just some of the people in the public eye who are tattooed, which in turn has fueled the acceptance of tattoos. In many traditional cultures tattooing has also enjoyed a resurgence, partially in deference to cultural heritage. Historically, a decline in traditional tribal tattooing in Europe occurred with the spread of Christianity. A decline often occurred in other cultures following European efforts to convert aboriginal and indigenous people to Western religious and cultural practices that held tattooing to be a "pagan" or "heathen" activity.
Within some traditional indigenous cultures, tattooing takes place within the context of a rite of passage between adolescence and adulthood. Some employers, especially in professional fields, still look down on tattoos or regard them as contributing to an unprofessional appearance. Tattoos can therefore impair a wearer's career prospects, particularly when inked on places not typically covered by clothing, such as the hands, neck or face. It is not unusual for tattoo artists to refuse to tattoo these very conspicuous areas. In some cultures, tattoos still have negative associations despite their increasing popularity, and are generally associated with criminality in the public's mind; therefore those who choose to be tattooed in such countries usually keep their tattoos covered for fear of reprisal. For example, many businesses such as gyms, hot springs and recreational facilities in Japan still ban people with visible tattoos, in part because of their association in the popular imagination with the yakuza, or Japanese mafia. In Western cultures as well, some dress codes specify that tattoos must be covered. According to popular belief, most triad members in Hong Kong have a tattoo of a black dragon on the left biceps and one of a white tiger on the right; in fact, many people in Hong Kong use "left a black dragon, right a white tiger" as a euphemism for a triad member. It is widely believed that one of the initiation rites in becoming a triad member is silently withstanding the pain of receiving a large tattoo in one sitting, usually performed in the traditional "hand-poked" style. One reason the Chinese associate tattoos with criminals is because historically criminals who were released from prison for minor crimes were given a tattoo on their face as a "warning sign" to other people.
In the United States many prisoners and criminal gangs use distinctive tattoos to indicate facts about their criminal behavior, prison sentences, and organizational affiliation. This cultural use of tattoos predates the widespread popularity of tattoos in the general population, so older people may still associate tattoos with criminality. At the same time, members of the U.S. military have an equally established and longstanding history of tattooing to indicate military units, battles, etc., and this association is also widespread among older Americans. Tattooing is also widespread in the British Armed Forces. Tattoos can have additional negative associations for women; "tramp stamp" and other similarly derogatory slang phrases are sometimes used to describe a tattoo on a woman's lower back. The prevalence of women in the tattoo industry itself, along with larger numbers of women wearing tattoos, has somewhat changed these perceptions.Books like Re/Search Press's "Angry Women" and "Modern Primitives", and Madame Chinchilla's book "Electric Tattooing by Women" have helped to change some, but not all, perceptions of tattooed women. Slang within the industry is not limited to women's tattoos.Tattoo artists traditionally refer to a small bikini line tattoo as a "tramp stamp", and the larger lower back pieces as "ass antlers".
Tiny, interlocking tribal armbands are often referred to as "tribble", and unskilled artists are referred to as "scab merchants", or "scar vendors", originally according to Sailor Jerry. Slang and jargon within the tattoo industry evolves as quickly as customer's-"custie's"- tastes change. Some tribal cultures traditionally created tattoos by cutting designs into the skin and rubbing the resulting wound with ink, ashes or other agents; some cultures continue this practice, which may be an adjunct to scarification. Some cultures create tattooed marks by hand-tapping the ink into the skin using sharpened sticks or animal bones or, in modern times, needles. Traditional Japanese tattoos (irezumi) are still "hand-poked," that is, the ink is inserted beneath the skin using non-electrical, hand-made and hand held tools with needles of sharpened bamboo or steel. The most common method of tattooing in modern times is the electric tattoo machine, which inserts ink into the skin via a group of needles that are soldered onto a bar, which is attached to an oscillating unit. The unit rapidly and repeatedly drives the needles in and out of the skin, usually 80 to 150 times a second. The modern electric tattoo machine is far removed from the machine invented by Samuel O'Reilly in 1891. O'Reilly's machine was based on the rotary technology of the electric engraving device invented by Thomas Edison. Modern tattoo machines use electromagnetic coils. The first coil machine was patented by Thomas Riley in London, 1891 using a single coil. The first twin coil machine, the predecessor of the modern configuration, was invented by another Englishman, Alfred Charles South of London, in 1899. According to George Orwell, coal miners could develop characteristic tattoos owing to coal dust getting into wounds. This can also occur with substances like gunpowder. Similarly, a traumatic tattoo occurs when a substance such as asphalt is rubbed into a wound as the result of some kind of accident or trauma. These are particularly difficult to remove as they tend to be spread across several different layers of skin, and scarring or permanent discoloration is almost unavoidable depending on the location. In addition, tattooing of the gingiva from implantation of amalgam particles during dental filling placement and removal is possible and not uncommon.
More Tattoo History
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