Tattooing was rediscovered by Europeans when exploration brought them into contact with Polynesian
s and American Indian
s. The word, tattoo, comes from the Tahitian
, which means "to mark
" and the techniques used were first mentioned in explorer James Cook
’s records from his 1769 expedition to the South Pacific
. Because tattoos were considered so exotic
in Europe and the U.S. (due to the Christian church frowning on their practice, causing it to die out many centuries earlier) tattooed Indians and Polynesians drew crowds at circuses and fairs during the 18th and 19th centuries.
The oldest evidence of the art of tattooing comes from a mummified human body dating from about 3300 B.C, and the practice seems to be widespread soon afterwards, with tattoos being found on many Egyptian mummies, believed to be from around 2000 B.C. and continuing with Greeks, ancient Germans, Gauls, Thracians and ancient Britons all using tattoos.
Each different culture had different reasonings for tattooing its members. In Rome, tattoos were usually found on slaves and criminals, and in Tahiti, tattoos serve to tell the story of the wearers life, with the first tattoo being seen as a rite of passage to manhood. The method of tattooing also varied from culture to culture. The American Indians usually used a simple pricking technique, rubbing the colour in afterwards, whereas the Inuit would make needle punctures then pass thread coated with soot through the wound to leave the pigment. The tribes of Polynesia used a small rakelike implement with pigment on the tips of each spike, and the Maori whose distinctive Ta-moko style applied the Maori wood carving technique to tattooing. Shallow, coloured grooves in complex designs were produced on the face and buttocks by striking a small bone-cutting tool (used for shaping wood) into the skin.
Modern tattooing is done by injecting pigment around 1 mm under the skin, directly into the more stable dermis layer, using a needle vibrating several hundred times a minute. This method has been fairly unchanged since it was invented by Samuel O’Reilly and patented in the United States in 1891.