25 Surprising Facts About Tattoo You Probably Didn’t Know

Posted by , Updated on March 25, 2024

Today’s list presents 25 Surprising Facts About Tattoos That You Probably Didn’t Know! There’s no doubt that we live in one of the most progressive eras in history. Our society is more open to different cultures and trends than ever before.

Tattoos have been around for thousands of years and they haven’t always been viewed negatively. In certain societies, tattoos symbolized something sacred or even honorable. Nowadays, many people see tattoos as works of art or as a way to enhance one’s beauty.

Still, there are those who see them in a dark light. In their minds, tattoos represent prison life, gangs, drug use, and racist organizations among other bad things. So, are you one of those people who want to get a tattoo but are skeptical about it? The following 25 Surprising Facts About Tattoos That You Probably Didn’t Know will enlighten you enough to make the right decision.



"The Iceman" loved tattoos


The Tyrolean Iceman, also known as Ötzi, has the oldest tattoos on his well-preserved skeleton. He has a black cross on the inside of his left knee, six straight lines on his lower back, and parallel lines on his ankles, legs, and wrists.

When scientists X-rayed his body, they discovered joint disease under each tattoo. This led them to believe that these tattoos were meant to relieve his pain.


Tattoo equipment goes back to the last ice age


Archaeologists have discovered tools in France, Portugal, and Scandinavia that were probably used for tattooing. These are at least twelve thousand years old, or from the time of the last ice age.


The Polynesians "baptized" tattoos


The word tattoo derives from the Polynesian word ta. Ta in Polynesian languages describes the sound of a tattooing spike being hit against skin. The first recorded reference to the word tattoo is in the papers of Joseph Banks, a naturalist aboard Captain Cook’s ship. Europeans called tattoos “marks” or “prics” until then.


Polynesian tattooing rules


Polynesian tattooing existed way before the arrival of the Europeans in the South Pacific. It’s also considered to have been the most skillful in history.


Tattoo removal was kind of gross in antiquity


Ancient methods for tattoo removal included the use of scum from the bottom of a chamber pot, mixed with very strong vinegar. Pigeon feces mixed with vinegar and applied as a poultice “for a long time,” was another popular solution.


Laser tattoo removal is the modern way


The advance of science and technology made tattoo removal easier and less disgusting. These days laser surgery is considered the most effective and popular way to remove a tattoo.

The laser penetrates the skin and breaks up the tattoo pigments. This way the pigments are carried away naturally by the body’s immune system.


The Greco-Roman view on tattoos


The Greeks learned tattooing from the Persians. They mainly used tattoos to mark slaves and criminals so they could be identified if they escaped. The Romans learned it from the Greeks and would tattoo “fug” on the foreheads of slaves, for “fugitive.”


Caligula found tattoos amusing in a strange way


It’s no secret that Caligula was one of the craziest Roman emperors of all time. He would often amuse himself by capriciously ordering members of his court to be tattooed.


Pope Adrian I banned tattoos for centuries


In 787, Pope Adrian I banned tattooing of any kind. Even on criminals and gladiators. From that point, tattooing was virtually unknown in most of Western Europe until the nineteenth century.


The Byzantines found tattoos humiliating


Tattooing wasn’t viewed positively in Eastern Europe either. Especially in the Byzantine Empire. The Greek emperor Theophilus for example, took revenge on two monks who had publicly criticized him by having eleven verses of obscene iambic pentameter tattooed on their foreheads.


In Ancient Egypt women loved tattoos


Designs that apparently represent tattoos are seen on paintings of both men and women in Egyptian art and statues. However, all the tattooed Egyptian mummies discovered to date are female.

Egyptologists believe these designs were symbols of fertility, virginity, and/or rejuvenation.


But Tommy Lee loves them even more


Rock star Tommy Lee grabbed a place in the Guinness Book of Records in 2007. How is that related to our list you wonder? Well, he became the first man to be tattooed in midair during a private flight to Miami.


Pamela Anderson made tattoos "cool"


Speaking of Tommy Lee, his ex-wife Pamela Anderson has a history with tattoos too. Actually, she was responsible for the rise in popularity of tattoo armbands in the late ’90’s. How? She was the first celebrity to bear one on Baywatch.


British and Russian royalty approved tattoos


From the middle of the eighteenth century till the early twentieth, tattoos were particularly popular with English and Russian royalty. They were so expensive that only the rich could afford them. When tattoos became more affordable, they started to be deemed “trashy” until the tattoo renaissance in the mid-twentieth century.


Yakuza's full-body suits

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Many gang members will have an “honorable” tattoo of their affiliation somewhere on their body. However, the title for the most famous of all criminal tattoos goes to the Japanese mafia, the Yakuza.

Its remembers are “legally to blame” (among other things) for the popularization of the full-body suit tattoos.


Thomas Edison's "contributions"


The man who invented tattoo machines in 1891 was a New York tattoo artist named Samuel O’Reilly. He based his design on the autographic printer, an engraving machine invented by Thomas Edison.


HIV and tattooing


The official medical circles claim that HIV could hypothetically be spread by tattoo practices. However, there are no reported cases of the disease being transmitted via tattoo application.


Winston Churchill and mom fancied tattoos


Winston Churchill’s mother, Lady Randolph Churchill, had a tattoo of a snake around her wrist. She would cover it with a diamond bracelet for formal occasions. In case you didn’t know, Churchill had an anchor on his forearm.


Women prefer tattoos more than men in the US


In the United States, more women than men are tattooed (23% vs 19%), according to a 2012 survey. Women are twice as likely to get their tattoos removed than men though.


Tattooing is a billion-dollar industry in America


The Statistic Brain reported recently that nearly 45 million Americans have at least one tattoo. Americans also spend more on tattoos than any other nationality, approximately $1.65 billion annually.


Lindbergh's case made tattoos popular with kids


The Lindbergh kidnapping in 1932, made many parents all over America to go crazy. Some of them had their children tattooed, so they could recognize them in case they got lost or abducted.


Tattoos make you "sexy"


Recent studies have shown that adults with tattoos are more sexually active than those without. The same studies also show that adults who have tattoos are more likely to commit a crime.


The most tattooed man on the planet


The most tattooed man in the world is Gregory Paul McLaren, also known as Lucky Diamond Rich. He is 100 percent tattooed, including the inside of his foreskin, mouth, and ears.


The "Disney tattoo guy"


George C. Reiger Jr., also known as the “Disney tattoo guy,” has over one thousand Disney tattoos, including all 101 Dalmatians. He had to get special permission from Disney because the images are copyrighted.


Pain's inevitable


If you’re considering to get a tattoo anytime soon, think about it well. Especially if you can’t handle pain. Your skin will be pierced from about 50 up to 3000 times per minute by the tattoo machine, depending the shape and size of the tattoo you want.

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