This Art Form Has Found A Resurgence Recently.

Sailor's Tattoo
Sailor's Chest Tattoo | Photo by

I’m sure you have heard it said that “Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder” and another similar saying “Art is in the eye of the Beholder” is true too. It’s also been said that you don’t have to be an art expert to know what you like. The art form I am describing doesn’t belong in a frame on a gallery wall.

Tattoo From Fantasy Island | Image by Ace Show Biz

It’s not like the diminutive Tattoo from Fantasy Island played by Herve Villachez.  Instead it is body art more commonly called a tattoo.

M*A*S*H* Television Series | Image by ME TV

You might remember the episode on the long-running television series M*A*S*H* where Radar wants to get a tattoo. Major Winchester makes a comment that it’s interesting that people will be tattooed with an image that they would not display on their wall in a frame. The other characters were trying to dissuade Radar from getting the tattoo. There has been a resent resurgence in the number and types of people who are getting tattooed today. The age range is much different than it was not too many years ago. The attitude of old was that the only people who got tattooed were in the military or in a motorcycle gang. That couldn’t be farther from the truth today. Men and women of all ages are getting inked.

Egyptian Mummy Tattoos
Egyptian Mummy Tattoos | | Photo by British Museum

The question arises as to how old the art of tattooing really is. An article on written by Bob Yirka published March 2, 2018 had the headline “Egyptian mummies found to have oldest figurative tattoos.” Some older tattooing has been found but the tattoos are not actual figures but just lines. Yorka explained that the tattoos were found on two mummies that were discovered over 100  years ago and were already in the British Museum.  A team of European scientists studied darkened blotches on a male and a female mummy trying to identify what they were. The blotches gave up their secret when infrared light was shined on them. The images proved to be that of a wild bull with horns and a Barbary sheep on the male mummy’s upper arm, while the female mummy’s blotch turned out to be S-shaped designs on her shoulder resembling batons that were used in Egyptian rituals. Quoting the story ” A closer look revealed that the outlines were under the skin, and were likely made using soot from a fire, probably with a needle made from copper or bone.”

Ukok Princess
Ukok Princess Tattoos Front And Back | Drawings by Elena Shumakova -Russian Science Academy
Princess Ukok
Princess Ukok Shoulder Tattoos | Drawing By Elena Shumakova- Russian Academy of Science

An August 14, 2012 article in the Siberian Times titled ” Siberian Princess reveals her 2,500 year old tattoos” written by an unnamed reporter explains the story of the mummy of the “Ukok Princess” whose body was found to be adorned with many tattoos. According to the article “The Siberian Times has obtained intricate drawings of her remarkable tattoos, and those of two men, possibly warriors, buried near her on the Ukok Plateau, now a UNESCO world cultural and national heritage site, some 2,500 meters up the Altai Mountains in a border region close to frontiers of Russia with Mongolia, China, and Kazakhstan. They are all believed to be Pazyryk people – a nomadic people described in the 5th century BC by the Greek historian Herodotus – and the colorful body artwork is seen as the best preserved and most elaborate ancient tattoos anywhere in the world.”

Oetzi Mummy
Oetzi Mummy Front And Back View | Photo by Marco Samadelli
Otzi Tattoo
Otzi The Iceman’s Knee Tattoo |Image by Marco Samadelli

There is another mummy that has tattoos on his body. This mummy is an iceman who was found preserved in a glacier September 19, 1991 and his tattoos were noticed then, but not seen clearly. A scientist from the EURAC-Institute for Mummies, Marco Samadelli, mapped out the various tattoos on the iceman, who lived between 3400 and 3100 BC,  using a technique that he developed. According to the article “Samadelli photographed the mummy’s body from different angles using a multi-spectral procedure which covered the whole range of wavelengths from infrared to ultraviolet. This allowed tattoos deep in the skin layers and which are no longer recognizable to the human eye to be shown up with great precision. The 61 discovered skin markings on Oetzi’s body consist of lines from 0.7 to 4 centimeters in length, mostly arranged in groups of two, three or four parallel lines, and also include two crosses.” The ultraviolet waves made the upper skin layers reveal the markings and the infrared rays brought out the markings on the deeper layers of skin. The procedure was performed in his specially refrigerated “cell” in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology.

Back Tattoo
Ink Master Back Tattoo | Photo by Straight Dope Message Board

So we now know the art of tattooing has been around for thousands of years, but now it has become so popular that there have even been television shows that have tattoo artist as contestants pitted against each other to win money for the best artwork. Here is a list of just some of them: Ink Master, Tattoo Nightmares, Miami Ink, LA Ink, Just Tattoo Us, NY Ink, Inked, Best Ink, Bad Ink, and Tattoo Fixers.

I’ve never had a tattoo and probably never will. I really like them and enjoy seeing the unique designs tattoo artists have created. My problem is twofold. First my nerves are very sensitive and I don’t think I could take the pain of the needle and secondly I would have too much difficulty choosing a design. How about you? Is there a tattoo in your future?

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].

Tim Chuey is a Member of the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association and has been Awarded Seals of Approval for television weathercasting from both organizations.

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