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The Origin of Tattoos – A Brief History

Author: Simon Hopes
by Simon Hopes
Posted: May 11, 2020
back 5000bc

Most of the general population is familiar with the term ‘tattoo’, but did you know the earliest evidence of tattoos dates back to 5000BC? Tattoos have continued to evolve throughout history and across cultures, and this post explores this incredible evolution.

The tattoo industry is full of different styles, and trends continue to keep evolving. Let’s have a look at some prominent tattoo styles that are increasingly popular for people to get inked.

Historic Records

The phenomenon of tattooing has been recorded in texts across history. In 1871, Charles Darwin wrote ‘The Descent of Man’, where he stated there was barely any country in the world that did not have some involvement in tattoo practices.

In the 19th century, Karl Von Den Steinen, a German explorer and ethnologist said, the concept of tattooing was derived from the ritual of decorating the body with scars. Plant sap was rubbed on the wounds to prevent excessive bleeding, which discoloured the scars, with the healed scars taking the form of tattoos.

In ‘Missionary Travels and Research in South Africa’, the physician and author David Livingstone stated that many Africans inserted a black substance under their skin to create a raised scar.

From these shreds of evidence, it can be deduced that tattooing did not originate from a single tribe as it was a key practice used across the globe by different cultures and religions for a variety of reasons including primal or religious rituals, and therapeutic implementations.


Ancient tattoos didn’t look like versions we see today, as they were steeped in the culture of the time. The oldest tattoo sample was collected from a Japanese tomb, which has been dated back to 5000BC.

Some scientific studies have found tattoos are one of the most exceptional pieces of evidence relating to ancient acupunctural practices as tattoos were positioned around different acupunctural zones of the human body to treat various symptoms.

Global Spread

Many prominent cultures in history have had a love of tattoos, as can be seen from the Egyptians, as well as in ancient Roman and Greek cultures. It is also said that the Greeks learned the practice of body art from the Persians when they mark slaves and prisoners with tattoos to prevent the chance of escape.

Curious about the origin of tattoos? Check out this post and quench your thirst for knowledge!

As the ancient superpowers conquered civilisations across the globe, the natural migration of these populations, including the gypsies from the Middle-East and India, meant tattoos were introduced to new audiences. For example, the influence and popularity of oriental tattoo designs is now attributed to the far west migration of some of these cultures.

Tattooing is not a new practice; it carries an enriched history with it. Don’t stop yourself from getting a tattoo because of a preconceived notion about it only being a modern-day practice. Tattooing is the best way to express your inner-most thoughts! Reach out to the best tattoo parlour in Bali and get inked!

About the Author

With extensive research and study, Simon passionately creates blogs on divergent topics. His writings are unique and utterly grasping owing to his dedication in researching for distinctive topics.

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Author: Simon Hopes
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Simon Hopes

Member since: Feb 14, 2017
Published articles: 237

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