The sailor who rolls up his sleeves and shows an arm tattooed with anchors, hearts, and mottoes, is actually wearing a form of body adornment that has been used by the most primitive peoples.
Tattooing goes back to very ancient times. The Egyptians, Southern Chinese, Bast Indians, and others all knew of tattooing. In those olden days, the art of tattooing was made to seem important and dignified because it was accompanied by elaborate ceremonies. The Maoris of New Zealand used to cover their faces with very complicated tattooed patterns, and sometimes they still do it today.
In Japan, the practice of tattooing chrysanthemums, dragons’ faces, and whole landscapes has gone on for centuries. Tattoo designs used to take the place of clothing for some of the Japanese. The American Indians used tattooing as a way of identifying themselves with certain tribes.
Tattooing has also had, in many parts of the world, a religious and social importance. Among some peoples, young girls arc not considered ready for marriage until they have been decorated with fancy tattooing. Tattooing has been used to designate mourning among some people. And warriors have had themselves tattooed in order to show their courage or to look more frightful to their enemies.
Today, tattooing is usually done by pricking the skin in dots and lines with a sharp instrument, such as a needle of steel, shell, or bone. Then coloring matter is put in to form a design. A less usual method is that of “sewing” in the pattern by drawing through the skin a thread that has been dipped in coloring matter.
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