Skin was the first canvas for art. Sticks and other pointy objects were the first paintbrushes. Tattooing was first a form of scarification. This involved wounding oneself and packing dirt or ashes into the scrape or cut to discolor it permanently. It is believed that prehistoric man cut holes in his skin, charred sticks in the fire, let them cool and then applied the black substance to the wound to create tribal markings.
As tattooing involved pain, blood and fire, primitive man believed the process released sacred life forces. The letting of blood was also associated with a sacrifice to the Gods. The symbol or animal form of the tattoo was thought to bring one protection from attack from that very same animal.
Tattoos were also used to bring one's soul in alignment with God's purpose, increase virility and fertility, ensure the preservation of the body after the death and delineate hierarchies and roles within tribes. For instance, a tribal chieftain would have a very different tattoo than the individual in the tribe who was thought to bring them all bad luck.
As skin does not preserve that well there is very archeological evidence that prehistoric people engaged in tattooing, although a few Paleolithic artifacts that have been discovered seem to suggest that the art of tattooing is as old as mankind.
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