A Little Tattoo History

The 58 markings archaeologists found on the knees, back and ankles of Otzi "Iceman",  a 5,000 year-old mummified body, places the origins of tattoos at around 3000 B.C.  Iceman, found in a glacier in 1991 on a mountain between Austria and Italy, remains the best-preserved Bronze Age corpse ever discovered, according to Smithsonian Magazine. Across Europe, archaeologists have found bone needles and clay discs believed to have been used for used for tattooing during the Upper Paleolithic (3800 B.C. to 10000 B.C.) period.
Otzi had tattooed on him a cross, six straight lines 15 centimeters long above the kidneys, and numerous small parallel lines along the lumbar, legs and ankles indicating possible therapeutic tattoos (treatment of arthritis via acupuncture).

Tattooing in the Western world is thought to have been introduce by Sir Martin Frobisher of Harwich, England.  In 1577, Frobisher. along with 3 ships and 120 men set off on a voyage to find a north west passage to China.  The purpose of this expedition was to find and return with gold ore.  Upon his return to England, Sir Martin Frobisher had with him 3 prisoners (a man, woman, and child).  The woman had tattoos on her chin and forehead and was a great attraction at the court of Elizabeth I.  Unfortunately, all 3 died within a month.

Early on, tattooing in the United States was done by hand, but in 1891, the United States Patent Office issued it's first electric tattoo machine patent to the Irish tattooist Samuel O'Reilly.  Mr. O'Reilly set up shop in New York City with the first "tattoo parlor" (studio) in the united States.  As you can imagine, tattooing became more and more popular all across the country, particularly with servicemen of the First and Second World Wars, commonly adopting tattoos as a sign of patriotism to their country and/or to their service unit.

Of course in today's world, all facets of society have tattoos.  Tattoos are no longer considered taboo and only sported by men.  Moms, Dads, doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, etc. have adopted tattooing as an art and a means of expression.

While much as changed over the past 5,000 years, one thing remains to be true.  Tattoos are used to outwardly express what is internally important.


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