Polynesian Cheif with tattoos

Tattooed Chief
Taiohae, Nukuhiva, 19th century.

Arctic Man with facial tattoos

Arctic Man with Tattoos


Tattoo History

Literature on the history of tattoos abounds. The following resources provide high quality, detailed overviews of the historical practices and significance of tattoos. It is recommended that all tattoo artists have a strong foundation in the history of the field. Also see the resources in the Museums and Exhibits page for additional historical information. If you want to do more in depth historical research at your local library, see the Library Research page.



Caplan, Jane ed. Written on the Body, the Tattoo in European and American History. Princeton , NJ : Princeton University Press, 2000.

Collection of scholarly articles tracing and analyzing tattoos in European and American History.

Gilbert, Steve ed. The Tattoo History : A Source Book. New York : Juno Books, 2000.

An anthology of historical records of tattooing throughout the world, from ancient times to the present. This book is very readable, full of rich illustrations and has an extensive bibliography.


Web sites 

The History of Tattoo: beyond the bounds of time and space

At this link you will find the archives of historical articles about tattoos hosted by Tattoo Life Magazine. The topics covered range from Arctic Tattoos to Tattoos and War to Erotic Tattoos.


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Tattooed Chief. Bodies of Cultures: A world tour of body modification. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. 13 December 2003. http://www.museum.upenn.edu/new/exhibits/online_exhibits/body_modification/bodmodtattoo.shtml

Arctic Man with Tattoos. Tattoolife.com. 13 December 2003. http://www.tattoolife.com/archive/arch_22.html