The oldest tattoo was made during 2160 - 1994 BC., and was found on a mummy. The tattoo was simple with parallel lines on her arms, legs, and an elliptical pattern made below her navel. An interesting fact about the tattoos on the mummies in Egypt is that, they were not found on male mummies; only the female mummies had the tattoos adorning their bodies.
In traditional African society, there was a form of tattooing called cicatrization. In the African tattoo methods, charcoal or ash was rubbed into small cuts, made with thorns. This led to the formation of scar tissues, which had decorative patterns made on them.
The wound, on some occasions, would be re-opened after the initial cutting, and a pebble or some other small object would be inserted under the skin and forced to heal into it, to give a obvious raised effort. It is said that the body art of cicatrization was undertaken by people, whose skin was generally too dark for regular tattoo coloration to appear.
Tattoos were used as a symbol to reflect the wearer's character, and was also used as a proof of courage and bravery. Both of them are characteristics required to undergo the painful body art. These tattoos were made to give the wearer protection from harm. It was seen as symbolism of guarding life throughout.
In ancient Africa, tattoos were not done as mere bodily decorations, but to imply the wearer of the tattoo of having taken on an almost supernatural state. According to some researchers, Africans indulged in tattoos, so that their original skin color would not show.
African Tattoo Designs
African tattoo designs and their meanings are different for men and women. A tattoo made on women is associated with fertility.
However, among men, African tribal designs often indicate social rank, traits of character, political status, and religious authority. The tattoos were made at different times in life.
The scars were created on women at puberty, after the birth of the first child, or also at the end of breastfeeding to highlight the bravery of a woman in enduring the pain of childbirth.
African tribal tattoos were also made on the hips and the rear. They accentuated the erotic and sensual parts of the female body.
There are various designs, which were also used to decorate the body. Tattoos were used by the tribal people to show belonging to a certain group. This helped them to recognize people from other tribes
Tattoos were made on male bodies, the evidence of which was found in Libya. The designs used to make them included, images related to sun worship.
In recent times, African tattoos have become very popular. Among the popular designs used are the Adinkra symbols. These symbols represent popular proverbs and maxims. These symbols make for wonderful sleeve tattoos. Hence, you will now come across a number of athletes sporting African tattoo sleeves.
The symbols of ancient African Gods are very popular. Plant and animal tattoos are also popular, as they symbolize courage and power of the wearer being at par with the strength and power of the animal.
There are several designs, which have originated in different parts of Africa. Hence, the symbols differ, and also the association of each one of them is different from others.
You will have to decide, which designs best suit your personality before you get it inked on the body. Talking to the tattoo artist is recommended, so that you have a better idea about the tattoos. Always remember that tattoos are permanent, so get it done only after due consideration!