Altering of the Skin's appearance by artificial means, such as pigment coloring.
To insert various dyes and pigments under the skin, to highlight a pictorial display, symbols, or words.
Captain Cook apparently discovered the phenomenon in his trips to Polynesia. The word itself supposedly comes from Tonga, (tatau) meaning to strike repeatedly and with color.
Earliest record comes from prehistoric times, where ancient man has been found with dots and lines embedded. It is thought that in Japan they can trace the practice back nearly 10,000 years.
[Modern] Today's society generally uses some form of tattoo as a means of identification, or sign of affiliation. Most common with gangs, but other sub cultures, such as Skinheads, Gays, and others including political groups.
Statistics show that in Western Society, men and woman are equal on how many seek tattoos. However the 'gay' culture the number of 'homosexuals' with tattoos is considerably higher than the straight population.
While the differences between genders is statistically the same, Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals have roughly twice as many tattooed. It could be claimed as a desire to show their differences from society, without being attacked. Though never scientifically proven, or really considered, it's a concept that might have some merit.
In many instances, the use of tattoos is to highlight other body features, such as arrows pointing to one's rectal area, their genital zone. Some consider it highly erotic, others find it unappealing.
Most age groups having tattoos are under 30, again showing the sign of possible rebellion against society norms. There are some who associate persons having tattoos as being into more hardcore sexual activities as well. Most prevalent in the Bear genre. However, again just speculation.
[Ancient] The practice was to make cuts into the skin, then rub assorted ashes or colored material into the wound, to create the color. Use of dyes and such would cause the wound to heal over these products, making for the discoloration of the top layer. Infection was common
[Modern] The insertion of dyes or pigments under the top layer is generally achieved by use of a special machine. It is a bar with various needles, that rapidly prick the skin, inserting the color under the top layer of skin.
Most dyes are water based, and the needles are sterile and used only once, to avoid infection. The practice is varied depending on the complexity of the design.
These 'tattoo machines' generally pierce the skin from 80 to 150 times per second. They are vastly improved from the first mechanical machine developed in 1891, which were based on Edison's engraving machine principle.
[Natural] According to Orwell, these occur where a wound is present, and natural materials like coal dust seeps into the wound, causing discoloration of the pigment on top, once it heals. Mostly found among Coal Miners, due to the fine dust in the air in mines.
Gunpowder and Asphalt are other substances that when rubbed into a wound can create a tattoo. Pricking yourself with a lead pencil or ink pen can also result in tattoos. This is the result of fine particles being left under the top layer of skin.
[Negatives] There is a serious downside to having a Tattoo. Other than it might no longer have meaning for the person wearing one, it can lead to infections, and other health related issues.
Allergies to the dyes or improper health during application can lead to skin ruptures, blood diseases, and worse. Most studios are NOT monitored beyond the simple hygiene requirements.
Removal is also a concern, which can be expensive. Many new techniques involve use of lasers, which have their own inherent risks, and so far, none can give a 100% guarantee of removal.
[Identification] The concept that tattoos are permanent has also led to its use for identification purposes. Most well known was the use by the Nazi's to mark Jews in the concentration camps, as well as other political prisoners.
Currently, some Military Personnel have their military numbers tattooed on their ribs, which is referred to as 'meat tags'. It is used in case of disfigurement due to an explosion or such rendering other identification methods useless.
These are also used to mark animals, such as purebreds.
[Religious] In some cultures, these tattoos were used to ward off evil spirits, to protect the wearer. This was greatly influenced by the advance of Christianity into the various parts of the world. It is also why many traditional tattoos no longer were worn on visible body portions, such as the face.
[Culture] Many associates tattoos in Western Culture with gangs and criminal activity, however it has resurfaced as a more acceptable level of cosmetic modifications. While many gangs or criminals continue to use Tattoos to identify their gang, their crimes, others are using it for more socially acceptable fashion statements.
The remembrance of a love one, by the tattoo of their initials or more. To make political statements. Military personnel have used tattoos to show pride in their military career and outfits.
In many cultures, tattoos were used to signify one's social status in the tribe. It has also been used to determine whether a person is someone's property or not, similar to the tattoo of numbers on animals.
[Cosmetics] While some allude to the fact that those with wealth have paintings by various Masters, the common man who can't afford such luxuries has tattoos. Many claim it is a form of art.
Some however use Tattoos to hide body flaws or scars or what they perceive to be body imperfections.