The common practices of tattooing and body piercing, which have both grown in popularity, are not at all new concepts. In fact, they can be traced back to ancient times. From culture to culture, piercings and tattoos varied in significance, from serving as amulets to fulfilling superstition. The earliest known tattoos were discovered on female Egyptian mummies dated c. 2000 B.C. Tattoos have also been found in other cultures like the Nubians, Thracians, Greeks, and the Polynesians.
“Otzi the iceman—the frozen man that was found in the alps maybe a decade ago or so—did have tattoos and he died probably about 3300 BC,” Anthropology Professor at The Ohio State University, Jeffrey Cohen, said.
Although researchers have not found a de nite reason for tattooing, there are some theories. In ancient Egypt, tattoos were found primarily on women. The reasons for this are ambiguous and have not been proved.
“Although it has long been assumed that such tattoos were the mark of prostitutes or were meant to protect the women against sexually transmitted diseases, I personally believe that the tattooing of ancient Egyptian women had a therapeutic role and functioned as a permanent form of amulet during the very difficult time of pregnancy and birth,” Professor Don Brothwell of the University of York said, according to smithsonian. com.
In the ancient time period, tattoos also functioned as status symbols, declarations of love, signs of religious beliefs, embellishments and even as forms of punishment.
“A lot of the reasons for tattooing today were also true in ancient times: to show you are a part of a group, [or for] beauty or art. The only major difference is the technology improvement and the accessibility of tattoos,” auditor and tattoo collector with tattoo sleeves and various other tattoos Stephen Barrett said.
“Yet amongst the Greeks and Romans, the use of tattoos or “stigmata” as they were called, seem to have been largely used as a means to mark someone as “belonging” either to a religious sect or to an owner in the case of slaves or even as a punitive measure to mark them as criminals,” Brothwell said.
The tools used to create these tattoos are vastly different from what is used today. Archaeologist W.M.F Petrie discovered a sharp point set with a wooden handle which could have been used for tattoos, and was dated to c. 3000 B.C. As far as ink goes, tattoos were usually dark which could have been from a black pigment such as soot. “Throughout time, tattoos show that a person belongs to a group. We also have to imagine that a body could be a surface to carry signs of belonging to a group, of an identity and of who you were, what your status was (maybe your age or ability) and who you could become.” Cohen said.
Piercings, much like tattoos, have been practiced for thousands of years. The oldest mummified body to be discovered with pierced ears was found frozen in an Austrian Glacier, dating to be over 5,000 years old.
The first found ear piercing was found in primitive tribes for magical and superstitious purposes. The tribes believed that demons and spirits were repelled by metal and so the tribes wore metallic ear piercings to ward off bad spirits.
“Piercings, much like tattooing, became part of life as people realized that they could modify bodies to enhance beauty, communicate or connect.Piercing probably also included scarring and other kinds of body modifications.” Cohen said.
Other reasons for body piercings included religious rituals, adornment, showing royalty, or to serve a more symbolic purpose, such as representing strength, unity in a group, or beauty. Egyptians wore earrings to display their wealth and beauty, while ancient Romans pierced their nipples to symbolize their strength and virility, according to tribu.com.
Sometime in the last several hundred years, tattoos and piercings became a bit of a taboo, but in recent decades they have become common again. With each new generation, it seems people’s open-mindedness and creativity grow. But while some believe inking or piercing their skin is an inventive way to display individualism, others still believe it is a trashy and undesirable fad.
Tattoos and piercings have been gaining popularity among high school and college students recently. There are many students who have are open to getting tattoos in the future as a vehicle of expression.
“People definitely know more about who I am because of my piercings. I don’t necessarily get treated differently but from a peer and societal standpoint people often admire me for being bold and expressing myself,” senior Brooke Holderbaum said.
Holderbaum has a nose piercing, eyebrow piercings, and multiple ear piercings. She is one of many students with piercings who believes they can be unique and beautiful ways for people to show who they are. After all, that is one of the ideas behind inking and piercing: to illustrate one’s personal creativity and artistic vision.
Previously, the stereotype has been that only sailors, marines, motorcyclists, and “trashy” people have tattoos, according to Huffington Post. People who chose to ink their skin were sometimes judged because they did not t in or looked scary, when in reality the ink on their skin had nothing to do with their personality.
Tattoos were given a negative connotation because the people who had them were different than the average Joe. And in the past, being average was the only way to fit in.
Now, more and more students are making the decision to add some ink. According to TheHarrisPoll. com, almost half of the millennial population has tattoos, and once they get one they are more likely to get another.
A tattoo is a personal mark one carries with them forever, it can have special meaning or someone can decide to get one for no reason at all.
“I think it’s a primal thing. Some people are drawn to marking themselves and others aren’t; it’s instinctual. Some people are built to be more interested in that,” said tattoo artist Matt Brown of Thrill Vulture Tattooing.
Brown works alongside his wife Naomi Fuller, the owner of the tattoo parlor. Fuller has been tattooing since the early 90s and has seen her fair share of prejudice against inked or pierced individuals.
“It has changed a lot over the years. I think because [getting tattoos] is more common now. I think a lot of people are more open to it now than they once were, but you still get people with stereotypical views where they think you’re a criminal or something,” Fuller said.
As always, there are two sides to society’s views on piercing and tattoos. People on the other side believe it would be dif cult to get a professional job if one was covered in ink or metal, or that one might be part of a “bad crowd” because they have body art. And then there’s always the view that tattoos and piercings are just unsightly.
“I think [tattoos] are ugly because you can’t see the person’s skin, especially with sleeve tattoos. They add this weird dis-coloration to their bodies when they get them filled in with other colors,” senior Olivia Boling said.
Boling is among the many people who support the idea that visible, ashy tattoos can be an eyesore. Some people will support tattoos as long as they can be easily covered up or hidden for work or other professional purposes.
As generations grow more tolerant and accepting of other ideas, tattoos will increase in popularity, regardless of what others think, although sometimes reconciling the expectations of family members or friends and the desires of oneself can be difficult.
“Ultimately you should do what you want because you have to live with it. We see people come in all the time, worried about their family, husband or wife’s reactions, but they still get tattooed because they really want to and it’s for themselves, not for anyone else,” said Fuller.
Although many advocates of body modi cations say not to worry what others think, a common concern of the working population is having visible tattoos and piercings and if they are beneficial or detrimental to their validity at their place of work.
In today’s society, tattoos and atypical piercings are growing in popularity. Around one in every 10 Americans ages 25-30 has a tattoo or piercing, according to bizjournals.com. Because of this, employers are finding it harder to manage body art in work settings.
“I don’t think about whether or not my tattoos are visible or if the students know I have them. Some of them think it is cool,” history teacher John Jordan said.
Some may say it’s unprofessional or that it will scare away customers, but that’s all a matter of opinion. Many employers enact dress and grooming policies to address tattoos and piercings.
“In my opinion, as a nurse, I think it is unprofessional,” Registered Nurse at Riverside, Tracy Poole said.
On the contrary, the worker represents the company they work for and if their tattoos or piercings are offensive, it could put their company’s reputation at risk. Rules or guidelines put in place that require tattoos or piercings to be covered at all times aren’t a type of discrimination or prejudice, it is just a way the company wants to be represented.
“I think tattoos in moderation are OK but should be under a professional uniform. Piercings should not be excessive,” Poole said.
According to blog.tat2x.com, some businesses that are “no visible tattoos” companies include Abercrombie and Fitch, AMC theaters, The Body Shop, Chick l A and many more.
Another place that prohibits tattoos and piercings to be visible is The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. The Medical Student Handbook states that visible tattoos are not permitted. Tattoos should be hidden by clothing or obscuring make-up. The handbook also states that body piercing is permitted in ears only; any other visible body piercing is strictly prohibited.
According to the policy regarding tattoos and piercings at Riverside Hospital, tattoos, accessories and piercings should not distract from a professional image and should be displayed in moderation.
So, whether piercings and tattoos are required to be hidden, or not, it is the company policy that must be followed. Now-a- days, it doesn’t seem to be much of a concern when it comes to getting the job or not. While society is becoming more open minded, those considering a tattoo or piercing need to be aware of the social rami cations and possible career limitations that may come with the new look.
Although tattoos and piercings are no longer used to identify one’s place in a tribe or community, those bearing body modi cations are often stereotyped to be part of a certain community or lifestyle. As these modi cations become more the norm the bearers may nd more acceptance of their appearance. Still, as tattoos and piercings are permanent body changes, it is important to carefully consider whether this is right for your body and your life.