How Did They Tattoo in Ancient Times?

Tattooing is a practice that dates back thousands of years and has been seen in many cultures across the globe. From the ancient Egyptians to the Polynesians, tattoos have been used for various purposes such as religious rites, societal status, and even as a form of punishment.

But how did they tattoo in ancient times? Let’s take a closer look.

Tools Used for Tattooing

In ancient times, the tools used for tattooing were much different than what we use today. Instead of electric machines and disposable needles, ancient cultures used various tools to create tattoos on their skin.

One common tool was a sharpened bone or stick that was dipped in ink and then tapped into the skin using another instrument. This method was used by many cultures such as the Maori people of New Zealand.

Another tool that was commonly used was a needle made from animal bones or thorns. The needle would be attached to a stick or piece of wood and then used to puncture the skin to deposit ink.

Ink Used for Tattooing

The ink used for tattooing in ancient times varied depending on the culture. In some cases, ink was made from natural materials such as crushed insects or plants. For example, the ancient Egyptians would use soot mixed with water to create their black ink.

Other cultures would use animal fat mixed with charcoal or ash to create their ink. This method was commonly used by Native American tribes.

Purpose of Tattoos in Ancient Times

Tattoos held significant meaning in many ancient cultures and were often used for specific purposes such as religious rites or societal status.

For example, in Egypt, tattoos were often associated with fertility and were commonly found on women’s abdomens, thighs, and breasts. In Polynesia, tattoos were seen as a symbol of strength and courage and were often worn by warriors.

In some ancient cultures, tattoos were also used as a form of punishment. The Romans, for example, would tattoo criminals with the words “fugitivus” meaning “fugitive” or “servus” meaning “slave”.


Tattooing has a rich history that spans many centuries and cultures. Although the tools and methods used for tattooing in ancient times may seem primitive compared to what we use today, they were still effective in creating intricate and meaningful designs on the skin. Understanding the history of tattooing can help us appreciate this art form even more and recognize its significance in various cultures throughout history.