Tattooing is one of the oldest forms of self-expression and adornments that exists. While your grandmother might think of tattoos as a fad, in truth they’re a part of history. Here at our Toronto tattoo shop, we’re honored to keep this ancient practice going. So wow your family and friends with these interesting facts about the history of tattoos.
1. Tattoos Date as Far Back as 3370 BC
Otzi the Iceman is the oldest natural human mummy in Europe. It’s been estimated that he lived between 3400-3100 BC. Amazingly he has a total of 61 tattoos! This means the practice of tattooing dates as far back as that. His tattoo designs feature a series of lines and dots. Other tattooed mummies have been found at least 49 archaeological sites in places like Greenland, Alaska, China, Egypt, Sudan, the Andes, and Siberia to name a few.
2. The First Electric Tattoo Machine was Invented in 1891
Samuel O’Reilly invented and patented the first electric tattoo machine in 1891. Thomas Edison actually had a hand in creating it too. The tattoo gun utilized Edison’s electric pen, which O’Reilly added needles and an ink reservoir too. Edison even had a tattoo himself- five small dots on his forearm!
3. Sailors Have Gotten Tattoos Throughout History
There’s a reason tattoos are so closely associated with sailors. They’ve been the most famous wearers of them for years. They would often get different designs based on achievements, such as getting a turtle if they cross the equator. This practice lives on today with branches of the military getting certain tattoos to mark special achievements. On a grimmer note, many sailors also got inked so that their bodies would be identifiable.
4. Sailors in WW2 Had to Change Their Designs
The classic Sailor Jerry style of tattoo got a lot of sailors in trouble during World War 2. Pin-up girls, often nude, were a popular design. However, the US Navy banned tattoos of naked women meaning many sailors had to rework their tattoos. The most common way they did this was simply tattoo clothing over the girls!
5. The Oldest Tattooing Tools are Around 12,000 Years Old
The oldest tools for tattooing have been found in France, Portugal, and Scandinavia. They’re estimated to be around 12,000 years old! Some places in the world still use similar tools to tattoo even to this day.
6. Barbie was the First Toy with a Tattoo
You might have expected G.I Joe to have this honor, but Barbie by Mattel was actually the first commercial toy to have a tattoo! The Butterfly Art Barbie appeared in 1999. It featured butterfly tattoos that kids could apply to her.
7. Only Women Were Tattooed in Ancient Egypt
Tattoos are often thought of as masculine, especially since it was socially acceptable for men to have ink before it was for women. But in ancient Egypt women were exclusively tattooed. Eventually, Egyptian men were also inked, but women held that honor for a while.
8. Captain James Cook Popularized Modern Tattoos
Tattooing fell out of popularity in the Western world for a while, but Captain James Cook is credited for the modern popularity of them. In the late 18th century Captain Cook took three voyages to the South Pacific century, where tattooing never went out of practice. He and his crew returned with tattoos, as well as tattooed men, and the practice started to become popular again.