7 things you didn't know about: Tattoos

Wiz Khalifa
Wiz Khalifa
Image: Getty Images

Rappers, soccer players and jail birds have become synonymous with tattoos, but tattooing has been practiced around the world for centuries, and is deeply rooted in ritual practice and tradition.

Early evidence of tattoos can be traced back as far as Ancient Egypt, with two mummies that were recently discovered having been found sporting tattooed images of sheep, bulls and mysterious lines.

Throughout history tattoos have come to represent a number of things including status symbols, declarations of love and symbols of punishment.

The word "tattoo" is said to come from the Samoan word "tatau" which means "to strike"—love them or hate them, tattoos are an art form and still have important cultural significance around the world.

Here are some facts you might not know about tattoos.

1. Having tattoos might make you sweat less.         

A study conducted by Alma College in the USA found that those with lots of tattoos tended to generate half the amount of sweat as compared to those with no tattoos. 

On top of that, the sweat composition of those with many tattoos contained twice the amount of sodium.

The study suggested that heavily tattooed people may be more at risk of heat-related injuries because their bodies could not get rid of heat as fast as they should.  However, more studies still need to be conducted to provide concrete proof of this.

2. The earliest tattoo inks were prepared by mixing ashes from completely burned wood with water.

One of the oldest tattoo ink recipes involved adding an ash and water mix to other materials including Egyptian pine bark, corroded bronze, leek juice or insect eggs.

To remove a tattoo in the early days?  Early forms involved applying scum from the bottom of a chamber pot mixed with strong vinegar, or...pigeon feces.  

3. Your skin is pricked between 50-3000 times a minute when getting tattooed.

Yes, that's right–an electric gun machine similar to a dental drill pricks your skin thousands of times while injecting ink into the dermis, the inner layer of the two main layers of the skin.

The needle leaves a drop of insoluble ink in the skin with each puncture.

Ainu Woman
Ainu Woman
Image: Getty Images

4. The women of the Ainu tattooed giant lips on their faces.

The indigenous people of northern Japan, known as the Ainu (meaning “people” in their language) used tattoos to denote maturity in women.

At a certain age, the women tattooed giant sized lips on their faces as a mark of maturity. The lip tattoos were also believed to repel evil spirits.

The tradition has lasted until recently, when the last tattooed Ainu woman died in 1998.

5. Tattoos are still taboo in parts of Japan.

In Japan, tattoos are associated with criminals; namely the Yakuza who are a famed crime syndicate.

The Yakuza can be identified by their intricate full-body tattoo art which covers most of the body, but can be hidden under clothes.

Their tattoos are not just random scribes though, but rather symbols that the gangsters believe will bring them wealth and prosperity, including dragons, Koi fish and Samurai warriors to represent honour.

Yakuza Tattoos
Yakuza Tattoos
Image: Getty Images

5. Question: can you donate blood or not when you have a tattoo?

Despite many people believing you cannot donate blood if you have a tattoo, according to South African National Bank Service and other blood donation organisations, you can.  You just have to wait six months after receiving a tattoo or piercing.  

7. You can get a tattoo done with a wooden handle, needle and silk thread.

Irezumi, a form of tattooing done in Japan is done by hand, using wooden handles and metal needles attached with a silk thread.

This style can only be done by a select number of specialists and those sporting these tattoos are seen as having a mark of bravery due to the pain the method inflicts.

WATCH | A fascinating video of tattoo transformation

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