For many years now, the world of tattoo and piercing aficionados has found itself quite at home. Where once there were sideways glances and even sneers of disgust when it came to body art and modification, there seems to be a wider acceptance of the practice. More artists & piercers have found places to open up businesses. Work environments for those rocking the art & jewelry have acclimated to the changes. In essence, tattoos and piercings aren’t so shocking anymore. Here below,we try to introduce the history of body art.
Unfortunately, thinking of body art and modification as something that is supposed to be shocking or raise eyebrows is incorrectly putting body art, as a whole, in a fairly small bubble. The history of tattooing and piercing goes back thousands of years, with unearthed remains of ancient man still showing the artwork of ancient artists.
In many cases, archaeologists are without the aid of written records for clarification as to the presence of body art. Still, available records and accounts have helped craft theories as to the purposes of this body art. Modern science has also lent a hand by being able to examine remains in various states and provide valuable information that may have otherwise been lost to time.
Overall, some of the prominent theories about what tattoos and piercings may have meant over time surround the following:
- Class Stature
- Supernatural Protection and Religious Practices
- Sexual Potency and Virility
- Superstition and the Afterlife
Letting others know who you were, what you represented, and what status you held in a society has always been a key part to establishing the proverbial “haves and have nots”. Each of these theoretical possibilities fall into the need to maintain hierarchies among a people. This established order in eras where chaos reigned supreme. Few things were as visible as tattoos and piercings that appeared on the face, and depending on how one’s prominence changed, so, too, did the body art.
One of the most surprising elements of the history of body art is that both men and women were adorned with these markings & jewelry. This is important to note simply because only in recent years has there been wide acceptance of body art across all areas of the gender spectrum. Unfortunately, misogyny and the ill-informed powers that be were instrumental in the negative connotations body art had over the years for women especially. Luckily, archaeological discoveries have helped in changing this particular narrative.
The future for body art fans and practitioners looks bright, but it can’t be overstated that there should be greater attention and respect paid to what these ancient practices once meant and what they could mean years from now. That’s not to say that the visual importance of tattoos and piercings isn’t important, but it might not be a bad idea to have your body art say something more about you than being the result of crazy night out you can never tell your kids about.