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Tracing the Evolution of Tattoo Art Through the West

Updated: Sep 18



Today, tattoo art is something so commonly aspirational that young adults can be found curating Pinterest boards for their ideas. However, do you know? tattooing is in fact considered to be one of the oldest forms of art and traces its roots back to the latter segments of the old stone age.


The oldest known inked body is that of Otzi, the iced mummified body of a man who lived between 3350 and 3105 BC. The body had 61 TATTOOS! and was found on the borders of Austria and Italy. Moulee's tattoo art studio Viman Nagar Pune
The oldest known inked body is that of Otzi, the iced mummified body of a man who lived between 3350 and 3105 BC. The body had 61 TATTOOS! and was found on the borders of Austria and Italy.

Traditionally speaking, tattoos have been an integral part of various ancient communities all around the world. They were not meant to be simple markings on the body, but a practice to highlight cultural and indigenous identity. The most common tribe known to practice this art in the ancient world was the Austronesian people – constituting sub-groups of current day’s Indo-Pacific and South-East Asian regions.


In India too, several tribes have been practicing tattoo art since prehistoric times such as the Santhals of Jharkhand and Bengal, Dhanuks of Bihar, and Todas of South India, among others.

In the 18th century, Captain James Cook explored the tattoo arts of tribes when he voyaged to the South-Pacific region. When his men returned to their homeland in Europe, they told tales about Tahiti’s “Tatau” (the original terminology). As the tales spread through word of mouth, the terminology changed.

By the 19th century, tattooing had gained popularity in the West because of Captain Cook and his men’s folklore however, it was falsely believed to have originated from their voyage. In the European and a major part of the British society, tattooing was therefore associated with sailors, the lower, and the criminal class. Meanwhile, in the United States around the same time, tattoos were forcibly inked on women in the circus to lure men. And so, this is how the class division debate around tattooing began in the Western media.

The notion of a tattoo being a form of “self-expression” emerged in the late 18th century as a unique way of identifying a sailor’s body in case of their disappearance. During the War of 1812 between America and the United Kingdom along with their respective allies, men marked their bodies and arms with personalized symbols using any pigment available around them.


When the electric tattoo machine was invented in the early 20th century, the process of tattooing became less “painful”. Members from the upper classes of the West ventured into this new style of self-expression. By the latter half of the 20th century, tattoos became a part of mainstream global fashion with many pop artists and celebrities being seen with tattoos.

Presently, tattoo art has made as a significant part of the pop-culture and the fashion world. Designs inspired by traditional tribal prints and modern abstract art can be seen being inked by people today. The boundaries of class division have more-or-less blurred. Even though tattooing still remains a controversial in the eyes of some, its acceptance as a valid form of art enabling self-expression is growing rapidly.

as a practitioner of this art of tattooing at Moulee's Tattoo Art Studio we are observing a great evolution of self-expressive art in the world. we are sharing cultures worldwide with jaw-dropping visual art on bodies people are getting permanent.


If you need help with your next tattoo project, send us your idea and one of our talented artists will contact you personally.



we are trying our best to contribute to this culture through Moulee's Tattoo and Art Studio which is located in Viman Nagar, Pune (India). we hope you found this information interesting! if YES, then share this knowledge with everyone and stay tuned with us by following us on Facebook Instagram and YouTube.

Tattoo and Tales!









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