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Tattoo history

It is hard to tell precisely when people started decorating their bodies with different ornaments and drawings, but it is definitely known that the tattoo history is at least 6000 years old.

The early tattoos have appeared in the primitive society. And they didn’t just serve a decorative purpose. Tattoos became an identification mark that stated membership to a specific tribe and its attributes. It also displayed the wearer’s social status within the said tribe. Tattoos were believed to grant the bearer magical powers.

The origins behind tattooing are also not quite clear. According to one of the theories it all began from accidentally damaged skin. Scars and hemorrhages would overlaps creating patterns and marking the owner as a brave warrior or a successful hunter of the tribe. Some of the earliest tattoos were cuts with ash rubbed into them, which formed blackened scars.

In different countries of the world people practiced different tattooing techniques. In regions with light-skinned people colors or pigments were used, in regions with dark-skinned people scarring techniques were practiced.

Tattoos have become a differentiation mark between the European and Asian tribes. Same was for the aboriginal Indian people of North and South America; same was for the tribes of Oceania. In Indonesia and Polynesia tattoo art and its mastery was passed from generation to generation which served as excellent anthropological proof of the periods tattoo significance. Almost the entire lives of those people were connected with tattoos, from birth till death. Bodies so densely covered, it would be hard to locate a patch of skin untouched by the hand of a tattooist.

Face – a person’s “business card”, something we pay attention to foremost. That’s why its decoration has become so important. In New Zealand a tribe Chieftain created a masklike tattoo called “Moko”. This tricky tattoo served the chief as war paint, showed of his masculinity, as well as defined his high social status as leader and exceled him above the commoners.

According to New Zealand tribal beliefs, a foe defeated in battle with a Moko mask tattoo would receive honor and respect. In such cases the head would be cut off and kept in the wining tribe as a cherished relic, in turn the rest of the body not taking the other tattoos in notice would be left in the battlefield to be torn apart by wild predators. A tattooed Moko head was actual proof of the tribe’s bravest and strongest warriors.

“Moko” facial tattoos were very individual; there were no two identical tattoos in the world, that’s why they were often used as a signature of a sort. English missionaries learned a profitable way to buy land and accepting the Moko drawing as a signature, which made the trade official.

Japanese aboriginal women “Ainu” facial tattoos had special meanings to them, they showed family status. By the ornaments on lips, chin and cheeks you could determine whether the woman is a virgin or married, the tattoos would show for how long was the woman married and how many children she has, or show that she is a widow. The same went for women in other countries where the tattoos would depict weather she is a virgin or not. However in some cultures they would go too far, for example in the “Nokuro” tribe children born by a woman without tattoos would be killed right after birth…

Tattoos were also associated with rebirth or transformation in to a different body. For example: a young boy turning in to a strong brave man. Or leaving this earth and transcending in to the afterlife. A fine example can be the Diaka tribe of Borneo islands. They believed in a paradise called “Apo-Keizo”, were everyone would be reborn anew with better qualities, where the dark turns to light, bad turns good, bitter turns to sweet. That’s the reason why the tribe’s people would make black ink tattoos, for they hoped for change and self-transformation in to something better after death. The black ink will turn to white, and white will in turn begin to shine brightly in the “Apo-Keizo” paradise, for without the tattoos there would be no light and spirit wouldn’t know where to go upon death.

On each land, different people’s tattoos were vastly different and so was the meaning and explanation. Examples are tattoos that freed and warded children from their parent’s hatred, there were tattoos that protected in battle, tattoos that helped during hunts, tattoos that protected from illness or tattoos that brought luck.

It’s also a fact that “tattoo magic” wasn’t only practiced in tribes and in ancient darker times. In the 17th- 19th centuries British sailors would depict large ornaments and drawings on their backs hoping that it will protect them from bodily harm and disfigurement. And such tattoos were made exclusively in the British navy.

In Arabian countries people that decorated their bodies with Koran quote tattoos were considered protected.

But of course there are exceptions, when a particular tattoo would place the bearer in an awkward situation or bring misfortune. Or mark the inability for an international process within a society. There were cases when a single tattoo would serve as a reason for a death penalty, other tattoos would mark a wrong doing or a felony. In Japan’s Chikuzen province from 1603 till 1867 as punishment for a single crime the convict would receive a single black line on the forehead, for each consequent crime another line would be added. If the convict would commit multiple felonies than the lines on the forehead would form a hieroglyph - 犬 (inu) that means dog.


Even in ancient China one of the five traditional methods of punishment was tattoos for the criminals. Thus, if the offender manages to escape from prison, he could be found by that particular tattoo, this method of marking criminals was also used by the Greeks and Romans. A little later, the following practices were introduced in Mexico and Nicaragua by Spanish travelers. In ancient Europe tattooing was widespread among the Greeks and Gauls, Britons, French, Germans and Russians.

Orthodox Christians, to create tattoos used explicitly provided seals and stamps. These specific presses with ornamental elements were used to uniformly cover the entire body with patterns, rarely used in various magical rituals necessary for creating an offspring of a cult.

With the spread of Christianity, even the simplest tattoos were brutally exterminated as an integral part of the linguistic rituals and virtually died out.

Tattooing wasn't used in practice by Europeans till 18th century. But when Christian missionaries traveled to distant lands to spread Christianity for „wild" tribes, they met sailors who had tattooed the motives of long-distance land travels. Notorious James Cook gave the greatest contribution to tattooing in Europe. Returned from sailing, he brought from Tahiti not just the word "tattoo," but also "Grand Omai ', native Polynesian covered with tattoos, which became a sensation as the first live-tattoo-gallery. After that no self-respecting performance, exhibition or stray circus stayed without "labeled savages". At the end of century Aboriginal fashion disappeared, instead of it the Americans and Europeans came in the attention. For example, Lady Viola walked with six portraits of American presidents, Charlie Chaplin and many other celebrities called for attention in this century. Society liked to watch the painted circus artists but they didn't hurry to tattoo themselves. It was an advantage of sailors, miners, flyers, etc. They used it as a symbol of brotherhood, solidarity, and traditions of fate. During World War I in Britain letter "D" was used for deserters, During World War II in Germany the numbers were used for the concentration camp prisoners. All this reduced the artistic value of tattoo. Stingy imagination and questionable taste for the tattoos of the main customers led to a limited "repertoire": marine themes, controversial and sentimental banal aphorisms. Although the unfortunate truth is that mankind has led the ancient art to a fall in favor of cheap consumer goods. In the absence of adequate demand for the complex tattoos, there was no incentive for artistic development of the new style. In the first part of 20th century Europe and America followed a simple, uncomplicated picture standard. And only thanks to strong growth in youth culture 50-60 years, new generation of tattoo artist appeared who had the artistic ambitions and courage to experiment, which returned tattooing to be an art again. They commonly took the traditional image of the Far Eastern, Polynesian, American Indian culture, creating new styles, trends and schools. It started a new modern stage in ancient art of tattoo.


Art styles of tattoo

-Polynesian tattooing style most outstanding representatives. Essentially, there has been a large traditional Maori tattoo culture revival. Maori tattoo practice goes back to New Zealand for more than a thousand years. It may be of the widest-as identity card, status, pedigree, and also as relevance to marry. Essentially the same Maori tattoos mark the beauty and savagery.


Irezumi Japanese kanji and Japanese-style tattoos continues its popularity. Executed in this style tattoos are among the most detailed, and therefore also takes up a lot more time. For example the traditional "body kit" (including hand, back, legs and upper part of chest) tattoo can take several years, each week visiting the tattoo parlor. That is why many choose a single theme tattoos, for example Japanese carp only on the back of the blade.


Kanji tattoos at the recent polls are among the most popular. This tattoo is a symbol of Japanese writing with some meaning. Der to remember, if you want a word, sentence or phrase into kanji symbols, it is advisable to apply only to a professional Japanese spelling specialist to nesanāktu misunderstandings.


Haida tattoos-the name comes from "hidery" meaning "people". Of the same name as the haida tribe. It is considered one of the oldest communities in the new world. Haida is the local residents on the west coast of North America, betpolitiski are recognized at the Canadian. There is still Hyde language, but it is very threatened, konevar attributed to tattoos. Thanks to the Haida culture neizmirsīsies.


Celtic-style tattoo another, which has a history stretching back thousands of years. Initially, the Celts their skills to create sophisticated art practiced formations on the metal ornaments and weapons. After that had already started their articles carried over to the man with the help of tattooing. Most Celtic tattoo design part comes from the Latin monks from the books "The Book of Kells". A lot of them are knot tattoo that symbolizes the eternal circle of death and rebirth.


Borneo-rich traditions of tattoos, which goes back to the world's third largest island of Borneo. If the earlier tribal-style tattoos were the members of the status of a sign, but now they have become more decorative, atšķirībāno themselves Maori, who continue to choose their tattoos at which certain principles.


Religious-growing popularity of tattoos adopted, reflecting the carrier spiritual and religious beliefs. This topic is often chooses as a first tattoo, and there may be added to the sacred heart of Jesus or the Virgin Mary images of Buddha or a Hindu God's illustrations.


Tribal-tattoo in a very common style, which most of the style comes from the ancient tribes. The same name also means tribal tattoo. Historically, these tattoos were used in rituals in which young people move adult status. If such a girl could not endure the pain tattoo, he could not marry, because unable to cope with pain when the baby will be born. Conversely, if the boy was unable to cope with the pain, then felt that the poor are likely to be a soldier, and this meant that they can be isolated from the tribe.


Gothic-style closely associated with music, but not limited to the Gothic. Mostly the majority of rock, metal and blakusstilu musicians are tattoos. The unifying thread is the skull, love and death themes.


American classical or oldschool-is still valid, called old school tattoos, which is characterized by simple design with high-fat contours. Popular themes are classic-military symbols, pinup girls, hearts and other designs that are surrounding the ribbon with the word, sentence, or a specific date.