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The Significance of Tattoos


It is believed that tattoos have been in existence since 12,000 BC, but there are some arguments regarding this matter. Tattooing has known to have been used for different purposes, varying from culture to culture, and also, from time to time, it has significantly changed in shapes, symbols, and sizes and place to place. However, the tattoos existing today have certain things in common with those of the ancient ones.

The earliest tattoos that were discovered belonged at the time the great Pyramids were being built in the land of Egypt, though it is believed that tattoos undoubtedly came into existence much earlier. As the Pharaohs went on extending their empire, the concept of tattoos traveled with them, and Crete, Greece, Persia, and Arabia gained the skill and extended the art of tattooing. Tattooing spread to China around 2000 BC.

While the Romans tattooed their criminals and slaves, the Greeks used tattoos for communication amongst spies. They marked their spies with tattoos which indicate their rank. This practice is still in vogue. The Ainu people, belonging to Western Asia, used tattoos to indicate the social status of their people. When girls came to age they were marked with special tattoo symbols and the married women as well. Japan got the knowledge of tattooing from the Ainu people, and the Japanese developed these to form symbols for their religious and ceremonial rites.

It is interesting to note that the tattoo designers in Borneo were women. This has been a cultural tradition of the Borneo people. The designs that were produced mainly belonged to the status of the person concerned and the tribe the person belonged to. While the Kayan woman would have delicate tattoos on their arms which look like lacy gloves, the Dayak warriors would have tattoos according to their braveries. One who has "taken a head" would have tattoos on his hand.


Tattoos have always played a significant role in rituals and traditions. The women in Borneo wear tattoos on their fore-arm which indicate their skills, for example, a weaver, and this made her status as a prime marriageable subject. Tattoo markings around the wrists and fingers have been believed to ward off evil spirits, and others were used to signify the clan or society that people belonged to.

In present days tattoos have been designed by groups like the Hells Angels, which have been created to signify that particular group. It is believed that, the person wearing a tattoo is able to call the spirit associated with the tattoo that he is wearing. Even today this belief exists with people wearing images of tigers, snakes, and bird of prey, calling the ferocity of the spirit that each image represents.




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