People have been getting tattooed for thousands of years. According to Smithsonian Magazine, a Chiribaya mummy displayed at El Algarrobal Museum in Peru has a tattoo on its right hand. The ancient Egyptians lived between A.D. 900 to 1350, demonstrating just how far back this ritual spans. These early body modifications raise the question: Are tattoos inherent to human nature?
The oldest tattoo to date
The Smithsonian confirmed that the Egyptians were canvasses for some of the earliest tattoos known to man. However, more recent discoveries – namely an iceman expected to be more than 5,200 years old – show that ink adornments go back even further than King Tut's era.
Dan Brothwell, one of the examiners of Iceman and a professor at the University of New York, told the Smithsonian that the body was marked with dots and small crosses on the lower spine, right knee and ankle joints. Positioning may suggest that this lad was seeking therapeutic relief from arthritis pain rather than an attractive piece of body art.
Archeology Magazine pointed out that in Egyptian culture, tattoos were predominant in women. Evidence of this can be seen in artifacts from that period, including ceramic figurines and vessels.
Archeologists discovered tattoos when they encountered the mummy of Amunet, a priestess of the goddess Hathor. It's believed that in Egyptian culture, women bore tattoos to promote their sexuality. It's also hypothesized that earlier tattoos were forms of expression, status symbols, religious beliefs and in some cases, punishment – ouch!
Why nothing has changed
Fast forward thousands of years, and people's rationale for getting tattoos has barely evolved aside from the fact that most people have moved past tattoos as a form of punishment. Supposed reasons why ancient Egyptians and earlier cultures got tattoos practically mirror those pointed out by a psychology specialist in regards to today's society.
"You can't exactly ask a mummy if he or she liked or disliked a tattoo."
Dr. Kirby Farell, a University of Massachusetts professor specializing in anthropology, psychology and history as it relates to human behavior, told Vice that people get tattoos – even bad ones – to memorialize a significant moment or person, preserve individuality and promote security.
Someone who tattoos meaningful song lyrics on his or her thigh may use it as a security blanket during tumultuous times. Farell explained that people often pick out a design from a meaningful time, which provides hope.
No taking bad tatts to the grave
It's only over the past few years that the buzzword tattoo regret has emerged, as some people have stepped forward to unabashedly admit that they no longer feel in tune with their tattoos. Because you can't exactly ask a mummy if he or she liked or disliked his or her tattoo, that information might remain as mysterious as the pyramids.
Unfortunately for the ancient Egyptians and even Iceman, laser tattoo removal wasn't invented until after their time. Luckily for this generation and subsequent ones, people no longer have to take their tattoo choices to the grave, as laser tattoo removal has made it possible to get rid of this traditionally-permanent decision.
It remains to be seen if tattoos are inherent to human nature. However, it isn't far-fetched to say that based on historical facts and psychological analysis that it's a possibility.
Over 45 million US adults* are living with tattoos, but now permanent ink can be a thing of the past. PicoSure® is the world's latest breakthrough technology in laser tattoo removal providing faster results in fewer treatments. Visit www.picosurear.wpengine.com to learn more and find a PicoSure Practitioner near you. * Source: Harris Interactive, 2012