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  • Thinking of getting a tattoo?

  • Decorating your birthday suit would add another personal story

  • to a history of tattoos stretching back at least 8000 years.

  • Tattooed mummies from around the world attest to the universality

  • of body modification across the millennia,

  • and to the fact that you really were stuck with it forever

  • if your civilization never got around to inventing laser removal.

  • A mummy from the Chinchorro culture in pre-Incan Peru

  • has a mustache tattooed on his upper lip.

  • Ötzi, mummified iceman of the Alps, has patterned charcoal tats along his spine,

  • behind his knee and around his ankles,

  • which might be from an early sort of acupuncture.

  • The mummy of Amunet, a priestess in Middle Kingdom Egypt,

  • features tattoos thought to symbolize sexuality and fertility.

  • Even older than the mummies,

  • figurines of seemingly tattooed people,

  • and tools possibly used for tattooing date back tens of thousands of years.

  • Tattoos don't have one historical origin point that we know of,

  • but why do we English speakers call them all tattoos?

  • The word is an anglophonic modification of "tatao,"

  • a Polynesian word used in Tahiti,

  • where English captain James Cook landed in 1769

  • and encountered heavily tattooed men and women.

  • Stories of Cook's findings and the tattoos his crew acquired

  • cemented our usage of "tattoo" over previous words like

  • "scarring," "painting," and "staining,"

  • and sparked a craze in Victorian English high society.

  • We might think of Victorians having Victorian attitudes

  • about such a risque thing,

  • and you can find such sentiments, and even bans, on tattooing throughout history.

  • But while publicly some Brits looked down their noses at tattoos,

  • behind closed doors and away from their noses, lots of people had them

  • Reputedly, Queen Victoria had a tiger fighting a python,

  • and tattoos became very popular among Cook's fellow soldiers,

  • who used them to note their travels.

  • You crossed the Atlantic? Get an anchor.

  • Been south of the Equator? Time for your turtle tat.

  • But Westerners sported tattoos long before meeting

  • the Samoans and Maori of the South Pacific.

  • Crusaders got the Jerusalem Cross so if they died in battle,

  • they'd get a Christian burial.

  • Roman soldiers on Hadrian's Wall had military tattoos

  • and called the Picts beyond it "Picts," for the pictures painted on them.

  • There's also a long tradition of people being tattooed unwillingly.

  • Greeks and Romans tattooed slaves and mercenaries to discourage

  • escape and desertion.

  • Criminals in Japan were tattooed as such as far back as the 7th century.

  • Most infamously, the Nazis tattooed numbers on the chest or arms

  • of Jews and other prisoners at the Auschwitz concentration camp

  • in order to identify stripped corpses.

  • But tattoos forced on prisoners and outcasts can be redefined

  • as people take ownership of that status or history.

  • Primo Levi survived Auschwitz and wore short sleeves to Germany after the war

  • to remind people of the crime his number represented.

  • Today, some Holocaust survivors' descendants

  • have their relatives numbers' tattooed on their arms.

  • The Torah has rules against tattoos,

  • but what if you want to make indelible what you feel should never be forgotten?

  • And those criminals and outcasts of Japan, where tattooing was eventually outlawed

  • from the mid-19th century to just after World War II,

  • added decoration to their penal tattoos,

  • with designs borrowed from woodblock prints, popular literature

  • and mythical spirtual iconography.

  • Yakuza gangs viewed their outsider tattoos as signs of lifelong loyalty and courage.

  • After all, they lasted forever and it really hurt to get them.

  • For the Maori, whose tattoos were an accepted mainstream tradition.

  • If you shied away from the excruciating chiseling in of your moko design,

  • your unfinished tattoo marked your cowardice.

  • Today, unless you go the traditional route,

  • your tattoo artist will probably use a tattoo machine

  • based on the one patented by Samuel O'Reilly in 1891,

  • itself based on Thomas Edison's stencil machine from 1876.

  • But with the incredibly broad history of tattoos giving you so many options,

  • what are you going to get?

  • This is a bold-lined expression of who you are,

  • or you want to appear to be.

  • As the naturalist aboard Cook's ship said of the tataoed Tahitians,

  • "Everyone is marked, thus in different parts of his body,

  • according maybe to his humor or different circumstances of his life."

  • Maybe your particular humor and circumstances

  • suggest getting a symbol of cultural heritage,

  • a sign of spirituality, sexual energy,

  • or good old-fashioned avant-garde defiance.

  • A reminder of a great accomplishment,

  • or of how you think it would look cool if Hulk Hogan rode a Rhino.

  • It's your expression, your body, so it's your call.

  • Just two rules:

  • you have to find a tattooist who won't be ashamed to draw your idea,

  • and when in doubt, you can never go wrong with "Mom."

Thinking of getting a tattoo?

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B2 H-INT US TED-Ed tattooed tattoo auschwitz maori victorian

【TED-Ed】The history of tattoos - Addison Anderson

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    稲葉白兎   posted on 2016/02/21
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