Introduction:

Deriving its meaning from the Polynesian word tatau, or to be written upon, tattoos are a type of body modification that requires the insertion of ink, dye, pigments be they indelible or temporary into the dermis layer of the skin. Evidence shows that the practice of tattooing has been found all over the world, before ancient times as a form of therapeutic pain relief to the modern versions as a from of decoration, symbolic meaning or perhaps as a way of identification.

Medical tattoos:

The first example of tattoos used as a form of acupuncture pain relief is on the iceman known as Otzi found between the borders of Austria and Italy in the northern alp province of Tyrol, who dates back to 3345 B.C. He had lines and dots marked upon the skin around his joins. Evidence suggests that he had suffered various forms of pain, and the tattoos inscribed on his flesh were made out of fireplace ash or soot. They were engraved by a sharp, wooden needle-like object, with the tip of it puncturing the skin and delivering the soot in the dermis layer of the skin. The closing on the wound resulted in the markings found all over his body. The second example in ancient history about the use of tattoos in medicine is from Egypt. Women had dots, lines, even shapes resembling figurines, (most notable of which was the goddess Bes) whereas the tattoos on the subjects were found inscribed upon them by older women on the abdomen, on the thighs or breasts. Tattoos were done even on pregnant women, as a form of safeguarding the baby both from pain and from the probability of death during childbirth. The modern equivalent of medical tattoos are of a symbolic meaning, as it is usually a way to transfer information about the user and his tattoos, what type of blood he or she has, what diseases, anything really to help them be identified and treated quickly for, had the need arose and they were not able to convey the information.

Traumatic tattoos:

Traumatic tattoos are layered upon the skin of the recipient, but not of volition. Rather, they are the result of what has happened to people. The most common form of these tattoos are scars; if a deep enough wound has pierced the skin and flesh, it leaves a mark upon the location after it has healed in the form of unevenly coagulated skin. These scars can take all sorts, sizes and places. The second form of these tattoos is work related, particularly to those people that have blue collared jobs the likes of mining, ironworks etc. These tattoos are involuntarily placed upon the person’s skin, as wounds are common in manual work. They can as well be accidental, the likes of graphite and ink types of tattoos layered on the skin from stabbing, or perhaps the ones where asphalt can give the discoloration of the skin after an accident or trauma. Although extremely rare, when a person survives a lightning strike be it natural or manmade, they are often marked on big portions of the skin in a tree root like fashion tattoos being apparent after their injuries have healed.

Symbolic and pictorial:

All throughout history there are evidence of tattoos being done on a person, denoting their status in society. They vary from the perhaps most famous moko tattoos of the Maori peoples in New Zealand, which tell the story of events in the lifetime of that person, being administered in interwoven shapes of lines, dots and shapes, to the tattoos of Japanese males, which depict majestic shapes and forms of their culture and traditions, to perhaps the most common ones seen in the modern days, depicting anything from their wishes and desires to anything in between of the capability of the artist administering the tattoos. The tools used to draw the various dots, lines, shapes and patterns of tattoos have come a long way from simple sharp wooden needles piercing the skin with their tips dipped in soot, to the modern day metallic high tech stuff that use all sorts of inks made out of various substances and chemicals to give way both for color, longevity and whatnot. Tattoos made in modern society can both be permanent and temporary. Permanent ones are done with inks, while temporary ones have various substances used to do them. Most notable of these are the henna tattoos that are done with a dye made out of a specific plant. Tattoos pose a health risk from a common rash, to a wound that simply refuses to heal, and should be administered in health regulated areas and clean, sterile tools to minimize the possibilities of trouble appearing. Yet, we cannot fully negate the bodily rejections that are specific to each individual.