How Were Tattoos Given in Ancient Times?

Tattoos have been a part of human history for thousands of years, with evidence of tattoos dating back to the Neolithic period. However, the methods used to give tattoos in ancient times were very different from modern tattooing techniques. Let’s explore how tattoos were given in ancient times.

The Origin of Tattoos

The origin of tattoos is shrouded in mystery, but it is believed that they were first used for religious and spiritual purposes. In ancient Egypt, tattoos were used to signify social status and were often placed on the face or neck. In Polynesia, tattoos were considered a rite of passage and were used to mark important life events such as reaching adulthood or getting married.

The Tools Used for Tattooing

In ancient times, tattoos were given using primitive tools such as bones, sticks, and thorns. These tools were dipped in ink made from crushed plant materials or soot and then punctured into the skin using a tapping or stabbing motion.

The Maori Tattooing Technique

The Maori people of New Zealand had a unique tattooing technique called “ta moko.” This technique involved using chisels made from shark teeth to carve intricate designs into the skin. The wounds were then filled with ink made from burnt wood or caterpillars.

The Japanese Tattooing Technique

In Japan, tattooing was a highly respected art form that was known as “irezumi.” Traditional Japanese tattoos often featured large-scale designs that covered the entire body. The technique involved using long needles attached to wooden handles to puncture the skin and inject ink.

The Significance of Tattoos in Ancient Times

Tattoos held great significance in ancient times and often served as markers of social status, cultural identity, and personal beliefs. In some cultures, such as the Polynesians, tattoos were believed to have spiritual power and were used for protection and healing.

The Evolution of Tattooing Techniques

Tattooing techniques have evolved significantly over time, with modern tattoo artists using electric tattoo machines and sterile needles. Today, tattoos are more popular than ever and are used for a wide range of purposes, from personal expression to commemoration.


While the methods used to give tattoos in ancient times may seem primitive by today’s standards, they played an important role in shaping the history of tattooing. From the Maori people of New Zealand to the ancient Egyptians, tattoos have been a part of human culture for thousands of years and will likely continue to be so for many more to come.