The history of tribal tattoos is the history of tattoos in itself. Ancient Egyptian mummies are the oldest pair of humans who are known to have had tattoos. Both individuals date anywhere from 3351 B.C. to 3017 B.C. The next known example of ancient Egyptians getting tattoos doesn’t appear for more than a millennia later.
They can only be joined in the club by the Ötzi the Ice Man, a cave man dating back to about 3370 B.C., has earlier evidence of tattoos.
These earliest examples are helping researches understand the history of tattoos and how and why body modification started.
The art of tattooing was popular in cultures across the globe, until the European colonialism tried to put a stop to it.
In one of the most well-known tattoo cultures, the highly skilled tattooists of Samoa continue to create their art as it was carried out in ancient times, prior to the invention of modern tattooing equipment.
Various cultures throughout Africa also employ tattoos, including the fine dots on the faces of Berber women in Algeria, the elaborate facial tattoos of Wodabe men in Niger and the small crosses on the inner forearms which mark Egypt’s Christian Copts.
Across the indigenous world, tribal peoples rarely describe tattooing as an artistic or aesthetic practice because there are no terms for ‘art’ or ‘artist’ in the majority of indigenous languages.
Given that it’s not just art for them, tattooing is actually integral to the life in the indigenous communities and their religions.
For them, it is a cultural, clan, or family-mandated ritual that showcases their most important values on the skin for all to see.