Understanding the History and Changes in Skin Art

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

More than 39 million people in North America have at least one tattoo, according to the website of Mill Office for Science and Society. Tattoos are a popular form of body art. They are being used by people around the world for several reasons.

People have them for religious purposes, for enhanced aesthetics, as a status symbol, a source of power or for protection, as an expression of oneself, as an indication of membership within an organization, and sometimes as an adjunct to reconstructive surgery. Whatever their reasons for having a tattoo on their body, one thing is for sure — they have embraced skin art despite the many controversies that surround it.

Skin Art Controversies

Photography is a medium that can express any thought or idea, with many reputable photographers covering different subjects. Many of these professionals have photographed tattooed individuals and posted them online for everyone to admire. While several gush at the beauty of tattooed skin, there are still quite a few who negatively look at tattoos. Some people perceive tattooed individuals as persons with negative characteristics and a problem to society.

Tattooed individuals are often thought of as people with low self-esteem, untrustworthy, heavy drinkers, drug addicts, and socially problematic. Women with tattoos are judged even more harshly than their male counterparts. They are thought of as promiscuous, unattractive, less honest, less caring, less intelligent, and less likely to become good mothers.

Many tattooed individuals face discrimination in society, even at work. In fact, many hiring managers are wary of hiring people who have body tattoos. They believe that tattooed people would not make good employees and would taint the company’s good image. According to experts, this prejudice against tattooed people is due to stereotyping. Tattooed people are stereotyped in society as dangerous criminals and drug addicts.

tattoo on arm

Brief History of Skin Art and Tattoos

Skin art or the art of tattooing can be traced back to ancient times. The oldest tattoo ever recorded belongs to that of the Iceman named Otzi, the frozen body discovered in September of 1991. A total of 61 tattoos were found in Otzi’s body. These tattoos were found in different areas of his body, with the majority of them found on his legs. The tattoos were made using only fireplace ash or soot.

Apart from Otzi, evidence that tattoos were being done in ancient times and different parts of the world was found in human remains in Alaska, Russia, Greenland, Egypt, Mongolia, Sudan, China, and the Philippines. Close examinations of the tattoos and bodies showed that these types of skin art were made in different eras in the past. Some of these tattoos are said to date back to 2100 BC.

Several theories try to explain why people in ancient times tattooed their bodies. In ancient China, it is believed that tattooing was common among bandits and convicted criminals. The tattoos were used to warn communities that such individuals could not be trusted and could pose dangers to society.

In ancient Egypt, theories state that the tattoos found on mummies were used to decorate the bodies. Some research also suggests that the tattoos could have been performed as part of medical treatment.

In ancient Rome and ancient Greece, records of the earliest tattoos can be traced back to the 5th century BCE. During this time, tattoos were used to brand the prisoners of war, slaves, and criminals. Evidence also showed that the soldiers and arms manufacturers of ancient Rome were given tattoos to mark their status.

Because tattoos were mainly considered barbaric and believed to have been given only to criminals and slaves during the ancient era, these types of skin art received negative acknowledgment among the majority. It was not until the mid 20th century that tattoos became acceptable to many people. But by then, only a small portion of the population used tattoos to adorn their bodies. Mostly, these people come from the entertainment industry.

In 1910, sailors and circus performers began using tattoos to convey their personal stories and professions. Sailors, for instance, often have ship anchors tattooed on their skin. The practice of tattooing developed even more among sailors over time. Many have decorated their bodies with the different destinations they have visited along with the length of their travels.

In the 1920s, tattoos became popular among women. Most of them had cosmetic tattoos in place of expensive makeup.

Many other changes have happened to the art of decorating skin through tattoos as the years rolled by. Now, many have accepted tattooing, although there are still a few who frown at people who have body art.

Scroll to Top