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The Spiritual Significance of Body Markings Throughout History and Cultures

Why do we get tattoos? For centuries we have been marking our bodies across cultures. It was something common and then came forbidden but is back on the rise.

Throughout history, humans have marked their bodies to symbolize their involvement in a culture's tribe or community through the practice of body markings or tattoos. For centuries, people have found that these types of permanent markings are an effective way to represent themselves and their beliefs to others around them. This article will provide a brief history about the significance of body markings throughout history as well as how they are used today by some cultures.

Body markings have been around for many, many years. Through the ancient inhabitants of early Mesopotamia to Native Americans in modern days, tattoos have played a part in marking the humans' involvement within their cultures community.

Early History

The oldest discovery of a tattooed human was found on the body of Otzi the Iceman, dating to between 3370 NS 3100 B.C. After that we discovered examples of human body markings date back to between 8000 and 6000 BC in ancient Mesopotamia. These early examples of body markings were performed on men, women, and children by making small incisions in the skin to remove a small part of the upper layer of the dermis. Animal fat was then rubbed into these cuts, which caused scars that would last a lifetime.

In ancient Egyptian culture, tattoos were done with ink and painted into the skin by making small incisions so that the ink could enter underneath. While this was an effective way to add some color to the body markings, it was not permanent and lasted only until the dermis healed from being broken down from its openings. Common Egyptian markings included symbols directly affiliated with Egyptian God and Goddesses. It was also very common for both men and women to mark their bodies. It's believed that these early tattoos served a religious purpose, either as protection against evil or as a symbol of status among the nobility.

In ancient Polynesia, tattoos were made by first making small incisions in the skin and then rubbing a pigment into those incisions. These pigments were usually created from ash wood or burnt tree bark. With this large range of colors, designs were also added into the mixture to create tattoos that would not fade away. Early European explorers wrote about Polynesian tattooing as early as the 1500s.

Though many Polynesians were skilled at applying tattoos to sailors, many of those same sailors had some pretty strange ideas about the Polynesians. For example, tattoos were very important in Polynesia – people could be expelled from their village if they didn't have any.

Vikings are another example of people who would tattoo their bodies to represent their tribal culture. Often the Vikings had tattoos depicting it’s group's legacy. While tattoos were very popular among many cultures, there were some who shunned the practice. It was believed amongst Christians that these markings were demonic, ungodly symbols and directly disrespected God. Thus individuals with tattoos were deemed “heathens”. Christians have centuries of history linking to their disapproval of body markings and killing individuals with body markings.

Tattoos have many meanings throughout history and continue to be a way for people to express themselves. Whether these tattoos are intended to symbolize life milestones or spiritual beliefs, it is evident that over thousands of years they continue to hold their significant meaning.

Tattoos Today

Tattoos can and continue to be incredibly meaningful and symbolic but they also seem to be something that is reserved only for special occasions and deep personal experiences. People do not want a tattoo because they think it would look good but rather because they want to represent a certain ideal or idea in their life. They are something that people get to show how far they have come and could potentially be a symbol of hope for others who feel like they might be able to overcome anything that comes their way.

In other words, tattoos continue to have significant meaning because of the fact that they are something that some people consider to be a rite of passage or milestone in life. As long as there are humans who believe that this is true, tattoos will continue to hold their significance.

It is easy to see why people get tattoos, they are very addictive. Some do it for religious purposes while others simply like the art of body markings. To this day, these permanent marks on our bodies are still seen as symbols of power or acts of bravery. It has become very common for people to get tattoos in honor of family members who have passed away or symbols that represent their religious beliefs. Whether they are symbols, pictures or words, these tattoos serve as daily reminders.

There is no denying that body markings throughout history hold many different significance and meanings depending on their history or traditions.

What does your tattoo represent?


Kidsgen. Tattoos in ancient Egypt. Kidsgen - Kid's Learning Styles. Web. 22 Oct 2014. <>.

"Tattoo." Encyclopædia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite, 2013. Web. 26 Sept. 2013

"Tatoos in History." Tatoos in History . N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2013

"Tattoos." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia Wikimedia Foundation Inc., 01 Feb. 2013. Web. 26 Sept 1 2013. <>.

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