Tattoos, in history, have always played a significant role in culture. Today, people use tattoos to creatively express their inner affections and dreams. Before millennials used them as accessories, criminals used them as gang and ethnic markings. One of the earliest discoveries of using permanent ink to the mark the body is seen in Egypt in about 3000 B.C.
Permanent body art in ancient Egypt served as a cultural element used to signify important people in society. For four thousand years Egypt used tattoos to mark the body. In the early history of Egypt and Nubia, only the bodies of women were marked (Tassie). The tattoos resembled the marks of dolls created in later periods of time and are believed to represent beauty and power in Nubia. A high priestess, Amunet, was discovered to live around Egypt’s middle kingdom and was the first piece of evidence on mummy that tattooing occurred in Egypt (Bianchi). Amunet served the goddess Hathor, goddess of love, beauty, music, dance, motherhood, and joy. Robert Bianchi states that the dolls created in her image were designed to have a carnal overtone. This sexual overtone is what led to discoverers believing that women who bore the mark where prostitutes. It wasn’t until several years later that researchers discovered that the body they uncovered was that of a high priestess. Tattooing in Egypt, during the time, was primarily featured on the bodies of females. The symbols marked on these mummies were often brands used as identification.
Tattoos among criminals are often used as identification. Among the members of the gangs, the art completes their self-image by sharing their identity, rank, and status within the gang (Hunt). There are both positive and negative aspects to having gang affiliated tattoos. Having permanent signs on the body associating an individual with a particular gang or group of people demands respect. In Japan, the Yakuza spend their lives perfecting the massive works of art on there bodies that identify them. The expensive tattoos offer a change for the member to reclaim his mind, soul, and body (Blair). These makes are required and exemplify their dedication to the lifestyle change that comes with the marks. Citizens that understand the weight that the markings hold treat their bearers with the utmost respect. In other instances, tattoos can bare a shameful meaning. How leaders used tattoos to mark and control groups of people.
In the present, tattoos are a fashion statement and are permanently used to accessorize the body in such a way as to express inner emotions. Lorrie Blair of Art Education stated, tattoos are particularly popular with teenagers who explore their identity through experimentation with their outward appearance. Young adults enjoy using tattoos as a way to brand themselves. Typical tattoos can range from Bible quotes, inspirational text, symbols, to obscenities. Tattoos cover some bodies from head to toe, other people are more conservative and only get them in places that are easily hidden. No matter what the tattoo or where it is, it always defines a person’s morals and what they think of themselves.
The act of tattooing has always been important in defining a person and their core values. The meanings behind the marks differ from sacred to random and can define how people characterize each other. From ancient Egyptian priestesses to American teenagers, tattoos have always been a significant part of culture in society.
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