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Tattoos are often a topic of interest and, at times, controversy. Whether you love them or hate them, tattoos just seem to have an allure about them that makes them such an amusing subject for discussion. While tattoos have been approached through history with a sort of stigma, they have slowly become a part of many people's lifestyles. Today, it isn't uncommon to see people with tattoos -- you may even see someone clad from head to toe with tattoos. In fact, there are even reality shows based on tattoos and tattoo artists. Read on to learn more about tattoos, the history of tattoos and how tattooing has become a respected art form in countries the world over.

What are tattoos?

Tattoos are markings that are made on the skin by pricking the skin and inserting permanent dye into the skin's layers. Most of the tattoos that people get today are done by professional tattoo artists, who make use of tattoo machines. Before tattoo machines came into use, however, tattoos were applied manually by piercing into the skin and administering the ink to the wound. The word "tattoo" comes from the word "tatau", which is a Samoan word that means "open wound". Tattoos usually depict a certain design or picture, which has a symbolic meaning for the bearer of the tattoo. May the tattoo be a name, a portrait, a tribal symbol, an object, an animal such as a dragon, words or just plain patterns, there are often stories behind a person's tattoos.

The history of tattoos

The earliest records of tattoos came from around 3300 BC. when Otzi the Iceman was uncovered from a glacier in 1991. He is the oldest natural human mummy from Europe. Otzi had 57 tattoos throughout his body, making it one of the oldest recordings of tattoos in the world. Many other mummies dating back to BC years, including Ancient Egyptian mummies, had tattoos as well. The Japanese also had an early start with tattoos and tattooing, with the art dating back about 10,000 years ago. In the Western world, tattoos began gaining popularity in the 18th century. During that time, European explorers encountered many other people, such as those from Polynesia, who had tattoos. Since then, the art slowly became assimilated into modern Western cultures.

Tattoos as an art form

With the growing popularity of tattoos as a means for self-expression, many tattoo artists have really taken tattooing as a serious art form. These artists use the skin as their canvas and the ink as their paint. Today, there are many types of tattoo designs, inks, concepts and types, which help elevate this medium of art. In fact, some have even made clothing lines and reality shows based on tattoos and tattoo artists. Tattoos are a mode of self-expression much like any other form of art, allowing people to go beyond their boundaries and connect with something deeper than the surface of the skin.

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