Scientists have discovered the oldest tattoos known on Otzi, the man who survived for over 3,500 years in the Alps. Experts believe these tattoos served more than an aesthetic function. They were also applied in the belief they had healing or protective powers. They are organized in 19 groups of dots, lines, and crosses and can be found mainly on the back and at joints where copper-age men had degenerative conditions. According to ceramic figurines of tattooed women, they are at least 4,000 year old.
Tattoos have been used throughout history as magical amulets, symbols of identity, declarations or love, expressions of admiration, and sometimes as a sign of cultural pride. Tattoos used as criminal identification go back a long way, starting with the Japanese yakuza and ending up in the more crude prison tattoos of Central American gangs.
Otzi's tattoos. / MARCO SAMANELLI / EURAC/ SOUTHTYROL MUSEUM FOR ARCHEOLOGY
Tattooing began to be accepted in Western cultures as a legitimate form of body ornamentation. It was also accepted by 'piercings', other forms of body modification, and even some tattoos. Today, decorative tattoos are used by 5% of Europeans, 15% of Americans, 20% of Canadians and 20% of Spaniards.
Tahitian tatau, which means "to mark or hit", is the source of the name "tatu". It refers to one of the oldest methods of applying ink. A needle made from wood, bone or bamboo is soaked with ink and then applied to the skin. The ink will remain inside the skin.
In 1891, Samuel F. O'Reilly, New York, patents a tattoo machine that uses an electric engraver pen, which Thomas Alva Edison had invented in 1876. This was the beginning of the industrial revolution in tattooing. It used an electric motor. It was used to insert and remove tattoo needles quickly and efficiently.
The basic function of a tattoo machine is to quickly insert and remove the needles from the skin 50 to 3,000 times per minute in order create the drawing. You can find anywhere from one to twelve needles on the tip of a tattoo machine. They can be arranged in different ways to create the desired effects.
The skin of the human body is composed of three layers. The epidermis is the layer that comes in direct contact with the environment. The dermis is a matrix of cells, gel, and sweat where hair follicles can be found.
The needles must pass through the epidermis to create a permanent tattoo. It is not the hollow needles that inject ink as some people believe. Instead, his entire body is inked. The needle creates a vacuum under the skin that allows the ink to flow into the dermis. Tattoos are painful because they injure tissue with many pain receptors.
The needle creates an inflammation response in the body. Therefore, cells from both the blood and lymphatic systems go into repair mode to heal the wound. The ink is eaten up by macrophages, which are cells that are called macrophages. Some of the ink particles are removed by macrophages, while others go back to their lymph nodes. Some ink particles are trapped in the gel matrix, while others are engulfed in skin cells called Fibroblasts. The transparent epidermis can reveal the ink-filled cells. This is what makes tattoos permanent.
Ink can also be applied to the epidermis because it is a layer which constantly renews itself through peeling (everyday, five billion skin cells are left behind by a person). After two to four weeks, all epidermal cells have been removed with ink. This gives the design its final appearance. 70% of ink will remain in dermis, while 30% will be eliminated or part of the ongoing shedding of epidermis.
While tattoos are durable, your body's defenses and the sun's exposure will eventually cause them to fade. Healthy living and skin care can prolong the life of tattoos. They can also be renewed at any time. Even if tattoos are permanent, sometimes the feelings that prompted them may fade and you might want to get rid of them.
Lasers are used to penetrate the skin, where the ink is absorbed. The ink then heats up and separates into smaller pieces which can be destroyed by macrophages. Because it absorbs all frequencies, black ink is easiest to get rid of. Colored inks can be more difficult and require special lasers that are tuned for their wavelengths.
The inks of today are a far cry from the carbon and ash that were used back then. They aren't regulated so they could pose risks. They can cause long-term damage and contain heavy metals like mercury, cadmium or chromium. All of these can cause allergic reactions. Only professional tattooists can predict side effects and recommend the best options.
However, there is no guarantee that tattoos can be removed completely. There are also risks of skin inflammation and scarring. It is best to think about the long-term before you go to a tattoo shop.
A term of up to 3500 years