Tattoos and piercings, although they seem to have become a rather new, modern fashion trend, are in fact, very old art forms. The oldest tattoo found dates back to at least 5,300 years ago. The body art was discovered on a mummy bearing 57 tattoos overall. Body piercings, particularly ear piercings, also have extremely old origins. The first recorded piercing, also found on a mummy, is expected to be over 5,000 years old.
Before this modern age of tattooing and piercing, these forms of body art seem to have been used as a representation of culture and tradition. Indeed, the Celts are one of the most well-known examples of this. The Celts used woad, which permanently tainted their skin a blue colour. Their designs largely consisted of spirals and knots. Ear piercings had many different uses according to different cultures. Egyptian ear piercings were usually a show of wealth and beauty.
Amongst primitive tribes, earrings were used for magic, to ward off evil spirits. Sailors believed that ear piercings helped seasickness and improved their eyesight. Earrings were also used as currency. When a sailor drowned and washed up on a shore, the earrings could be used to pay for a Christian burial.
Today, tattoos and piercings have become a lot more common, particularly tattoos, and the reasons people get them are extremely varied. With regards to tattoos, these could range from commemorating a loved one or as a symbol of struggle, to simply being addicted to getting inked.
Piercings can also symbolise a commemoration or occasion. Like tattoos, however, piercings seem to be more popular for their aesthetic, in today’s culture. Still, these forms of body art have become more accessible and personal, rather than ritualistic, and perhaps for this reason, they have become more popular.
Yet, there are still numerous stereotypes surrounding those who do sport these forms of body art. They are sometimes seen as rebellious, uneducated and unreliable, and perhaps even unhygienic. The stigma that tattoo parlours, in which most of them do body piercings, are dirty and unprofessional, in most cases, is just not true. Many places in Norwich, such as the Factotum Body Modification prove that modern parlours are clean, comfortable and full of highly skilled artists.
However, it seems that these stereotypes apply more to the older generations, and that amongst younger generations, body art is common and accepted.