Shelby Englebert

Englebert 2

ShelbyEnglebert Professor PiercyEnglish 1301November 4,2016


Theterm tattoo is derived from the Polynesian term tatauwhich means “to write”(Friedman,Anna Felicity, and James Elkins). Tattoos are a form of art thatinvolves body modification through inserting ink into the dermislayer of the skin. Unlike the upper epidermis layer which wears outand shaded, the dermis skin layer permanent. Therefore, tattoos arelong-lasting. Currently, around 15% of the world has tattoos, and thepercentage is rapidly rising because people are beginning to changetheir attitude and perception about them. Unlike some decades backwhen people associated tattoo with occult practices, they are nowviewed fashionable (Estpresearch.Org). This synthesis paper is goingto elaborate on the rich history of tattooing and also highlight someof the controversies within this line of art.


Tattooingstarted thousands of years ago. Some of the earliest cases of tattoosin was in ancient Egypt. Female Egyptian mummies dating to around2000 B.C have been found to have dot and dash tattoos on theirbodies. Following this discovery, anthropologists have concluded thatthe Tattoos had spiritual significance in the Egyptian culture. Infact, some of the representation of their bodies are of god andgoddesses. Consequently, In Japan, clay figurines shaped like manwere also decorated with tattoos that had religious and magicalsignificance. Among the Maori&nbsptribe, tattoos formed a sacredlink between the living and the dead.

Itis also important to note that while some cultures acceptedtattooing, there were others who were opposed to the practice. A goodexample of these civilizations included the ancient Romans. TheRomans were opposed to the practice mostly because of their Christianbackground. They believed that tattoos were impurities to the humanbody and criminals were the only ones allowed to have them (Friedmanet al. 2.). This did not prevent the adoption of this form of artbecause history has it that as time passed and the Romans interactedwith other people through trade and military warfare, some soldiersbegan wearing tattoos as a badge of honor.

Tattoosover the years have changed in design from the ancients mere symbolsto sophisticated modern forms that make use of different colors.Amidst all these, it is, however, important to note that its generalpurpose has never changed (Friedman et al. 5). Tattoos have been usedacross different cultures to send messages and might. The Romansoldiers used tattoos to show honor and respect. The Egyptiansassociated it with religion. Over the time, in the United Statesarmy, some soldiers have used it to depict differences in ranks andexperience.

Inseveral cases, Tattoos have also sent wrong messages to the generalpublic. For example, in Prisons, they use Tattoos to instill fear andshow gang affiliations. A good example of this is seen in the case ofYakuza which created a negative impression about tattoos (Friedman etal. 1.). Currently, tattoos are wildly used by the young generationas merely a form of self-expression and fashion.

Inmost states, there are no laws regulating body tattooing especiallywhen one is of age. Current provisions only dictate the age at whichone should get a tattoo.There are especially legislations thatregulate tattooing minors stating that they can only get tattoosunder written consent from their guardians or parents (Friedman etal.). Some states even limit tattooing entirely to adults over theage of 18. There are also laws that govern the quality of instrumentsused and the health standard requirements to reduce the cases ofinfection.

Thereno laws banning tattoos altogether in most countries, however, someemployers might require one to cover up tattoos to maintain aprofessional appearance. A career like military or police mightrestrict tattoos because they distinguish someone from the rest ofthe population and thus making them easily recognizable. However,refusing to employ or firing someone because of a tattoo is anoffense because it infringes an individual’s freedom of expression.

Tattooand piercing have been linked to several highly communicable diseaselike hepatitis B due to poor hygienic and sharing of needles or ink.However, over the years cases of disease spread have reduced due toincreased awareness and use of disposable needles and ink. One of themost common conditions associated with Tattoos is Sarcoidosis, itinvolves inflammation of the skin, lungs and lymph nodes and cancause permanent damage to the organs involved (Estpresearch.Org).Other common complications also include periodic itching, swellingand irritation.

Tattooinks have also been of significant health concern because they arenot very safe. The chemicals in inks have been known to cause severereactions some people (Health.Ny.Gov1). Most inks contain metals like nickel that can cause serioussystemic complications. Women during pregnancy are also advised notto get tattoos as there is a risk that the chemicals might affect thefetus. When it comes to its removal, dermatologists have often usedlasers.


Itis evident that Tattoos have always been part of human history andculture. People have used it to express how they feel and passmessages to others. Soldiers use it to show experience and mightwhile teenagers use it to for fashion and beauty. Care should,however, be taken when getting a tattoo because it creates room forcontamination.


Health.Ny.Gov,&quotBody art- Tattooingand Body Piercing.”,(2016)available at

Estpresearch.Org:Worth Knowing About Tattoos.&quot&nbspEstpresearch.Org,2016,

Friedman,Anna Felicity and James Elkins.&nbspTheWorld Atlas of Tattoo.New Haven, Yale University Press, 2015,