Jorge Clifton – Member Of The Tattoo Artists Association


You certainly know someone who has a design engraved on their skin. Or are you the one with a tattoo? Used to mark an important moment, pay homage or simply to beautify the body, tattoos have their origins long before Christ.

The first records
The earliest record of a tattoo was discovered in 1991 on the frozen corpse of a Copper Age man. The remains of the man, who was dubbed by scientists as “Ötzi”, date back to 3,300 years before Christ. In his body, several lines were found in the region of the back, ankles, wrists, knees and feet. The designs are supposed to have been created by rubbing charcoal into vertical cuts made in the skin.

After studying the body, X-rays revealed bone degeneration next to each of the tattoos. This has led scientists to believe that the Ötzi people – who are the ancestors of part of the Europeans – used the drawings as a kind of medical treatment to lessen pain.

With the development of civilizations, tattoos gained other meanings. According to National Geographic, women who danced at Egyptian funerals around 2000 BC had the same abstract stroke and dot designs found on female mummies from that period. Later, there was also the emergence of tattoos representing Bes, the Egyptian goddess of fertility and protection of homes.

The Romans and the Crusades
While some civilizations used to adorn their bodies with different designs and techniques, the ancient Romans did not get tattoos because they believed in the purity of the human form. For this reason, tattoos were banned and reserved only for criminals and convicts.

Over time, the Romans began to change their view of tattooing, motivated mainly by the Breton warriors, who used badges of honor tattooed on their skin. Thus, they came to admire the bravery of the warriors and the symbols they carried. Before long, Roman soldiers also carved their own marks. Another interesting fact is that Roman physicians developed excellent techniques for applying and removing the designs.

As early as the crusades of the 11th and 12th centuries, tattoos were used to identify Jerusalem soldiers. All those who had the design of the cross on their bodies would receive a properly Christian burial if they were killed in battle. National Geographic points out that after the Crusades the tradition of engraved skin art fell into disuse in the West for a period, but continued to grow in other parts of the world.