The Begining of the Globalization of Tattoos

The globalization of tattoos began in the 1700’s when the first explorers first saw Oceanic and Polynesian peoples cover in this painted designs.  Although theses ‘painted people’ were seen as primitive or barbaric many of the sailors that interacted with them began to have tattoos placed on their own bodies.  The distinct ways that these sailors adopted the practices they observed show the heterogeneous nature of the cross-cultural exchanges that were taking place.  For some of the travelers to the Pacific they engaged in the activity merely out of curiosity and they served as a permanent souvenir of their voyage as well as evidence of their encounter with people of the Pacific.  Many sailors also had their names or initials tattooed on their bodies rather then the style of the indigenous to serve as a form of dog tag.  This practice of putting personal references on one’s body had existed previously but became more popular with the use of tattoos.  Permanent markings of this sort soon became popular practice among seafarers.  Suggesting that early encounters with the people of the Pacific has had a lasting impact on Western maritime culture.  From there the practice slowly began to be mainstreamed.  Rock stars and movie stars began to get tattoos making them popular with people all over the globe, until they became quite common amongst populations in the United States and elsewhere.


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