From primitive tools to the modern machines; tattoos have been applied for thousands of years. The practice is believed to have originated in ancient Egypt, where evidence supports that the highest pharaohs were inked. With the evolution of society and modern technology all kinds of gadgets found there way in to the lives of men. The development of tools and machinery changed the way we work play and even decorate out bodies. Different cultures have used various instruments and methods.
The people of the Polynesian islands are traditionally heavily tattooed, using the designs to signify things like sexual maturity, genealogy and social status. Generally, the more tattoos a person had, the more respect they had from their peers, thus the higher their position in the community. A man with no tattoos was virtually ignored.
They did, and still often do use a handmade tool that involves carving and sharpening many needles out of tortoise shell, or some kind of animal bone. The blunt end of the needles was inserted and bound into a stick. The end result looks similar to a very sharp hair comb. The needles were then dipped into the ink, pressed against the flesh and the comb was tapped into the skin with a mallet-like tool. The ink was a concoction of soot diluted with water or oil so that it’s easier to work with.
For years the Japanese only used tattoos as a way to mark criminals so that society would know what crimes the wearer had committed. The Yakuza, the Japanese mafia, traditionally encouraged the used of tattooing to promoted unity in their ranks and test the strength and endurance of a man. As with other cultures, the more tattoos a mobster has, the more respect he is given. In recent years, the current generation of Yakuza has opted for simpler, less conspicuous tattoos so they would be harder to identify.
Today in Japan, tattooing is accepted to much the same extent it is in the United States. It has developed into quite an exquisite art form, revered and studies by tattoo artist all over the world. To this day, the process is preformed in very much the same method the Polynesians used, only they use a single sharp object rather than many fastened together.
Some tribal cultures required that people be tattooed by a certain age or before they are allowed to participate in certain rites, like marriage. A marriage tattoo often signifies the wearer’s commitment to their intended spouse. In some of these cultures, the entire design of the tattoo is painted on all at one time. The ink is then tapped into the skin, by hand, with a sharpened thorn.
Some cultures created tattoos by cutting designs into the flesh of a person and then rubbing the wounds with a pigment of some kind. The pigmenting agents would get into the skin and remain there long after the cuts had healed. Inks made from plants and flowers or ashes mixed with water were commonly used. Because the cuts tended to be larger and deeper than the needle pokes associated with most body art, they were very easily infected. This practice may have evolved into what we now call scarification.
Today, in modern civilizations, tattooing is preformed with an electric tattoo machine, or gun, which uses groups of needles inside metal tubes to place ink
under the skin. The machine repeatedly drives the needles in and out of the skin, between 80 and 150 times a second. Thanks to this modern technology, this process is faster and much less painful than what out inked forefathers had to endure.