Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tattoos Through Time

5000 BC 
The earliest evidence of tattooing in Japan is found in the form of clay figurines that have faces painted or engraved to represent tattoo marks. The oldest figures of this kind have been recovered from tombs dated to 5,000 BC or older. It is said that the Japanese Samurai would tattoo themselves so that they could be be recognised if their armour and clothing were looted.

3300 BC Ötzi the Iceman dies in the Austrian Alps, his mummified body is discovered in 1991 and has 57 tattoos and markings on his body mostly small lines and crosses believed to be therapudic to treat osteoarthritis.

Source: New Scientist
2800 BC Ancient Egyptians One of the most famous of those early mummies is that of Amunet, a priestess of the goddess Hathor, who was found at Thebes. This female mummy displayed several lines and dots tattooed about her body. The tattoo patterns and markings were still clearly visible on her flesh.

2000 BC Upper-class Egyptian women and priestesses are tattooed with a series of dots over the abdomen, thighs and breasts. Scientists hypothesize that these tattoos are a form of protection during pregnancy, since the abdominal markings would expand to cover the woman's belly as it grew.

1300 BC Mummies dating from roughly 1300 BC are tattooed with pictographs symbolizing Neith, a prominent female deity with a militaristic bent. These are the only tattoos that at this point seem to have a link with male bearers.
Source: Wapedia
Tattoos on right arm of the
Scythian Chieftain.

500-300 BC Scythian Chieftan and “Ice Maiden  uncovered in the Altai Mountains in Pazyryk in Siberian Russia. No instruments specifically designed for tattooing were found, but the Pazyryks had extremely fine needles with which they did miniature embroidery, and these were probably used for tattooing.

400 BC The earliest known tattoo with a picture of something specific, rather than an abstract pattern, represents the god Bes. Bes is the lascivious god of revelry and he served as the patron god of dancing girls and musicians. Bes's image appears as a tattoo on the thighs of dancers and musicians in many Egyptian paintings, and Bes tattoos have been found on female Nubian mummies.
297 AD 
The first written record of Japanese tattooing was discovered when a Chinese dynastic history was compiled. According to the text, Japanese "men young and old, all tattoo their faces and decorate their bodies with designs." Japanese tattooing is also mentioned in other Chinese histories, but almost always in a negative context. The Chinese considered tattooing to be a sign of barbarism and used it only as punishment.
306 Constantine bans tattoos when tattoos were felt to "disfigure that made in God's image"
500 Pilgrim tattoos (a cross with the date of the pilgrimage) get religious sanction
720 Body art goes out of fashion in Japan when officials begin using tattoos to mark and punish criminals normally with a cross on the inner forearm or a straight line on the outside of the forearm or upper arm. The punishment was reserved for those who had committed serious crimes and were in turn ostracized by their families and communities. These outcast men were often discriminated against and so banded together, eventually forming organised crime groups known as the Yakuza. The members, wives and mistresses of these organisations are often tattooed with beautiful and intricate bodysuits (irezumi) which are rarely displayed for anyone other than other members.

Shoko Tendo author of Yakuza Moon
There is still some prejudice against tattooing in Japan because of their association with organised crime. Some establishments will still not admit people who bear tattoos of any kind.

Source: Let's Japan

787 Pope Hadrian bans tattooing banned tattooing (since it was associated with heathen practices) but there was an exemption for religious tattoos since they would “bring spiritual rewards.” 
922 Islamic scholar Ahmad Ibn Fadlan travels to Volga Bulgaria and comes across the Rus and makes some of the earliest recorded observations of the Vikings. "They are described as having bodies tall as (date) palm-trees, with blond hair and ruddy skin. They are tattooed from "fingernails to neck" with dark blue or dark green "tree patterns" and other "figures" and that all men are armed with an axe and a long knife."

1022-1066  King Harold II was the first recorded royal to have had tattoos, it is recorded that Harold's sister Edith could only pick out his mutilated body after the Battle of Hastings from the words 'Edith' and 'England' tattooed over his heart.
1576 Tattooed Inuit presented at Queen Elizabeth’s court.
1691 The English explorer William Dampier brought a tattooed South Pacific islander, Prince Giolo to London. He was known as the Painted Prince, because his whole body, except for his hands and face, was tattooed. He became the first in a long line to be displayed to the public at fairs, markets, and circuses.
Prince Giolo (The Painted Prince)
1700 Obeying the letter of the law, middle-class Japanese adorn themselves in full-body tattoos when a law is passed that only royals can wear ornate clothing.
1769 Captain James Cooks exploration of the South Pacific had his crew, looking for the perfect exotic memento to take home with them, tattoos seemed like the perfect option. He also popularizes the vocabulary we still use today: The Polynesian word tatau (meaning "to strike") gives rise to the Western term "tattoo."
1846 Martin Hildebrandt opens the first U.S. tattoo parlor in New York City, servicing clientele that includes soldiers from both sides of the Civil War. His daughter, Nora, rises to fame in the 1890s when she tours with the Barnum and Bailey Circus as the Tattooed Lady.

1891 Samuel O'Reilly invents the electric tattoo machine, which is inspired by Thomas Edison's autographic printing pen. He had been using the hand method of tattooing before, but it was tediously slow. The demand for more elaborate tattoos led O'Reilly to seek a faster method. Modern tattoo machines are still largely based on O'Reilly's design.
1955 Robert Mitchum makes the tattoo cool again in the movie Night of the Hunter, playing a sociopathic traveling preacher with "love" and "hate" inked on his knuckles. Popular modern variants include "rock/roll" and "love/math."

Robert Mitchum's tattoos in Night of the Hunter

1911 Norman ‘Sailor Jerry’ Collins was without doubt one of, if not the most famed tattooists to have ever lived. And is one of the fathers of American tattooing and was mentor to Don Ed Hardy and Mike Malone. Sailor Jerry learned his craft while travelling the country jumping between freight trains and hand tattooing drifters and the like. He was taught to use the electric tattoo machine by a man called, Tatts Thomas. While enlisted with the Navy, he sailed through the ports of Asia he began a life long fixation with Asian art and imagery. Sailor Jerry settled in Oahu, Hawaii where for the next forty years he practised his infamous style of humorous bold and colourful imagery on the passing military men. 

Sailor Jerry images: The Selvege Yard
1920 Photographs emerge of prisoners with highly elaborate tattoos in Russia, the popularity of these rose among the Thieves (vory v zakone) during the Soviet era such that there was an subculture associated with them. You could tell a fellow prisoners entire life story from his tattoos. Interest in Russian prison tattoos peaked again with the release of Alix Lambert's 2007 documentary The Mark of Cain.

1961 An outbreak of Hepatitis B which is linked to tattoo parlors in New York City causes tattooing to lose popularity again. As a result,  tattoo shops are outlawed in New York City until 1997.

1965 saw a resurgance in the popularity of tattooing with the anti-war, hippie, civil rights, gay and feminist movements. These groups leaned away from the traditional tattoo flash and toward more gentle images which dominated the mainstream tattoo market with designs like yin and yang symbols, flowers, astrological signs, and dolphins.

2005 The TV show Miami Ink airs for the first time, featuring the work of Ami James, Chris Garver, Darren Brass, Chris Nunez, Kat Von D and Yoji Harada and brings tattooing to the forefront of popular culture. This helps tattoos to become more popular in the West than at any time in recorded history, with more than 39 million North Americans sporting at least one.

2006: Scientists at Harvard University develop an erasable tattoo ink. Though it won't wash off in the shower, the ink's structure makes it easier for lasers to remove tattoos. Erasable tattoo ink gains popularity among those who stencil their sweetheart's name on their bicep, as the design is less regrettable after a breakup.

2009: Belgian teen, Kimberley Vlaminck, 18, claimed that she asked for only three stars to be tattooed near her left eye as a present "my father wanted to pay because in our family everyone has a tattoo," she said. As her father ate an ice cream outside, Miss Vlaminck claimed that she fell asleep before waking up to find her face covered in the "nightmare" tattoos. 56 stars to be exact. She later retracted the statement saying that she had lied and said that she fell asleep after her father's angry reaction.

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