The art of marking bodies has been around for thousands of years, but how and when did this begin? Check out our brief recap of the history of tattoos.

history of tattoos

Tattoos have been a Eurasian practice since at least the Neolithic times. Mummies have been discovered with tattoos, Pre-Christian German and Celtic tribes were often discovered with heavy tattoos, an even Julius Caesar described what would be considered tattoos in Book V of his Gallic Wars (54 BC). But it wasn’t until Captain Cook and his botanist, Joseph Banks took a voyage to Tahiti and New Zealand that the word “tattoo” was actually ever uttered. Derived from the word ‘tatau,’ Banks wrote about this unique way of marking bodies in his journal; Captain Cook later spread the word around Europe after returning from his adventure.

According to Juniper Ellis, after the word became well known, the Polynesian tattooing practice (where tools, consisting of needles carved from bone, shell or shark’s teeth, are placed on the skin and the handle is tapped with a wooden stick, causing the skin to puncture thus inserting the pigment) became increasingly popular among European sailors. As they traveled abroad and returned home with tattoos, tattoos began to appear in mainstream European, and eventually North American, figurations as well. While many amateur tattoo artists were in demand in port cities all over the world, the first documented professional tattoo artist in the USA was Martin Hildebrandt, who tattooed soldiers on both sides in the American Civil War. He even tattooed family members, most notably his daughter, who became the first American woman who was professionally tattooed. While it was an expensive and painful process, it had become a mark of wealthy individuals by the 1870’s.

As tattoos became more popular, more and more tattoo shops were opened. This unique form of art became especially popular during the 1940’s – people went for cosmetic surgeries to get blush, colored lips, and even eyeliner tattooed. Gradually, this form of art spread throughout the entire world as more elite people in Europe were seen with tattoos.

Fast forward to today’s times, where tattooing is extremely accessible by all and many take part in this unique art form. While original forms of tattoos were most often religious and spiritual, tattoos today no longer have to have this level of significance. From athletes to celebrities to your next-door neighbor, everyone has contributed to the popularization of modern tattoos. Luckily, the techniques of tattooing have improved, especially as new technologies and safety measures have risen.

Now that you know the brief history of tattoos, check out the brief history of tattoo removal. Once we have you sold on the advancements of the process, feel free to schedule your Free Consultation today.

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