The History of Tattoo

Since ancient times tattoo had been a part of a man reflecting his world view. Society, being developed into tribes, made tattoo a unifier summoned to show one’s belonging to one of the tribes and being a language which consisted of primitive sacred magical symbols. Further development took place during times of totemism, when tribes were divided into kinds and had a specific ancestral spirit guarding the race. At those times it was essential to show such history in tattoos and at the same moment it is transforming from mass-scale into elite. Now only warchiefs, priests and patriarchs were being tattooed and it lasted until the Middle Ages. As development of the society went on, tattoos were worn by members of different secret societies, clans and labor unions (i.e. masons, butchers, etc.). A new wave of the tattoo’s relevance has made it popular among seamen and pirates. The Europeans, having discovered the new lands, met the tattooed population of America, Polynesia and New Zealand (it should be mentioned that totemic and ornamental styles of these tribes were of a high-level and are highly acknowledged nowadays). Seamen and pirates have promoted tattoos all around the Old World as well as the opening of the new port tattoo studios. The next wave is concerned with eastern expansion (India, China and Japan).

It has lead to a Chinese and Japanese tattoo styles which are still leading today. Unlike the above-mentioned styles, eastern tattoo style has been reflecting local folklore, spiritual and mystical ground, implemented in a quaint realistic manner. By the end of last century tattoo has become popular in the underworld and military environment. Due to development of new technical skills such as usage of mechanical and electrical tattoo machines, first professional studios are being opened in big cities. And if the first ones have returned the tattoo its initial value, the latter have discovered a new style. The middle of sixties is known as the so called “music” style. It had been splashed by youngsters: from musicians to their fans, who made tattoos associated with jazz and rock-n-roll. The twentieth century has become an age of colored tattoos, whereas only black and red ink images have been practiced before. At the same time the first avant-garde themes are taking place: from replication of paintings to performance of highly artistic portraits and photo images. The tattoo of this period is thought of as distinctive and artistic significance that lasted until today. Nowadays, along with the flush of ethnic themes, appears a new, cybernetic concept. It represents a modification of a human body and its limbs as mechanical connections, microcircuit patterns and other cosmic and mystical themes inspired by the 21st century and psychotropic medications. That’s pretty much all the story about the history of tattoo and its evolutionary development in a human society.


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