The original meaning of the tattoo was symbolic and ritual. In many cultures, only a few – usually tribal warriors – could afford it. In Polynesian cultures, to deserve a tattoo, a warrior or a chief had to kill an enemy and cut off his tattooed head.
Preserved ancient mummified human remains reveal that tattooing has been practiced throughout the world for many centuries. Ancient tattooing including facial tattooing was generally practiced among the Austronesian-speaking people of who used the distinctive skin-puncturing technique, using a small mallet and a piercing tool made from various shrub thorns, fish bone, animal bone, and oyster shells.
In ancient China, tattoos were considered a barbaric practice associated with the Yue peoples of south-eastern and southern China. Many referrals were made in literature where tattooing was associated with depicting bandits and folk heroes.
The word “tattoo” comes from the folk environment of the island of Tahiti, where the meaning of the word “ta-tau” defined “to sign, to mark something”. It is impossible to know how exactly tattoo art was created but archaeological evidence suggests it was a form of art already many thousands of years ago. In Western society tattooing evolved and gathered popularity through South Pacific voyages in the 18th century, among sailors and outlaws.