Tattoos through the Ages


Tattoos have been adorning human bodies for thousands of years. And while the complete history of tattooing is much too long to write about here, the following is the condensed version of a tradition found all around the globe.

 The earliest known tattoo can be found on the famed Ice Man, who was uncovered on the Italian-Austrian border in 1991. The Ice Man has been carbon dated at 5,200 years old.

 Female Egyptian figurines dating back to 3,500-4,000 BCE were depicted with tattoos on their thighs.

 Three tattooed female Egyptian mummies dating back to 2,000 BCE were discovered as were several later examples of tattooed female mummies found in Greco-Roman burials at Akhmim.

 The Scyhthian Pazyryk of the Altai Mountain region, located in central Asia, are an ancient culture whose people displayed tattoos. A 2,400 year old Scythian male was uncovered in 1948 in Siberia, preserved in ice. The man’s limbs and torso were covered in complex tattoos of mythical animals. Then, in 1993, a woman whose shoulders, wrists and thumbs exhibited the tattoos of mythical creatures was discovered in a tomb in Altai.

 In China’s Taklamakan Desert, evidence of tattooing can be found dating back to 1,200 BCE. During the Han Dynasty, it is believed only criminals had tattoos.

 Mummified bodies of six Greenland Inuit women dating back to 1475 BC were discovered, which revealed evidence of facial tattooing.

 In the late third century, Japanese men began exhibiting elaborate tattoos.

 In 1722, Europeans discovered the Samoan Islands. They mistook intricate leg tattoos on the Native people of the island for leggings.

 In 1892, the future King George V had the Cross of Jerusalem tattooed on himself during a visit to the Middle East. He collected more ink on a visit to Japan, where he received a dragon on his forearm from an acclaimed tattoo master. Later, his sons would also have themselves tattooed, beginning a family tradition.

 In 2009, David Beckham’s tattooed body is on posters in girls rooms across America.