Tattoos have been a part of ancient cultures for thousands of years. The earliest known tattoos originated in Egypt, with evidence present on female mummies dating back to 2000 B.C. From Greece, to Rome, to Peru and Chile, many other ancient civilizations used tattoos as a permanent form of body adornment. That mythical animal you have tattooed on your skin? You’d be donning the mark of nobles in ancient times.
Surely, the Scythians and Thracians did not use tattoo guns to create body art. Indeed, the electric tattoo machine was only invented in the late 1800s by tattooist Samuel O’Reilly, modifying the design of Edison’s electric pen. Here are some traditional tattooing techniques that are making a comeback worldwide.
Imagine a stick and poke tattoo, but hard core. Japanese bamboo tattoos use the same technique as hand poked tattoos, but a bamboo handle accompanied by up to two dozen sharpened points is used rather than a single needle. This technique requires immense skill and patience. A swift, punting motion is used to set the needles in place. And forget about booking a half-day trip to the tattoo parlor! Although a skilled tattoo artist can pierce the skin five times per second, a single large tattoo can take up to hundreds of hours to complete.
Rake and striking
If you’ve heard of the myth that Captain Hook brought tattooing to the Western world after his wanders in the Pacific, you might be familiar with this next technique. Rake and striking originated from Polynesia and is one of the oldest tattooing methods known to date. The tools necessary include a sturdy stick traditionally made of bone, a sharpened rake attached to a long handle, and oftentimes an assistant to keep the customer’s skin stretched tight. Rake and striking takes more manpower and pain tolerance than your regular tattoo, and mainly exists only in small areas of Papua New Guinea and Samoa today.
Metal tube technique
If you’re looking to try something new, but unsure where to begin, this next one’s for you. Originating in ancient Thailand, the metal tube technique is most similar to current Western techniques. Typically, brass tubes are hollowed out to hold a sliding, pointed rod in the center. Tattoo artists will dip the point in ink before pressing down on the tube repeatedly to ink the design. Metal tube tattoos were most prevalent in Southeast Asian countries, and if you travel to Thailand, you’ll see many artists continuing this traditional practice.
Which one of these techniques are you ready to try?