The history of tribal tattooing is in fact the history of the tattoo itself. The concept of a tattoo can date back well over 5,000 years ago when it was given the name it has today. This name comes from Polynesian origin and is mixed slightly with a bit of Tahitian. The originating word of tatau means nothing more than strike in such a way as to leave a lasting mark. In the beginning tattooing was nothing more than a form of branding in which these marks were made through burns in a specific pattern or shape, but then would later be accomplished though the use of dyes and inks which were readily found in the tribal region.
The tattoos we know of today could actually be dated back well before 3000 BC in which originally cuts were made into the skin and an organic dye would be used to color the skin before it healed. The first color choices were not as advanced as they are today with black light and glow in the dark ink, but rather to that of ash or soot from a camp fire. Later experimenting would be accomplished to show that permanent dyes used in the process of making various clay pots and clothing colors would be used instead of ash.
The oldest recorder tattoo can actually be seen on a 5,000 year old mummy which was found to be frozen in the Alps. This mummy was found to have 57 tattoos permanently marked on his body. These tattoos included lines and crosses located throughout the body in such a manner as it would depict that is was used as some type of treatment for arthritis. Furthermore, mummified remains in Russia which date back 2,400 years can be found with them as well as the fact that they were popularly utilized during the Egyptian period.
The oldest bodies depicting the use of tattoos can be found in Japan in which statues made of clay clearly show that tattooing was performed in Japan well before 3000 BC making it some of the oldest in the history of tattoos.
It has long since been believed that the concept of tattooing originated as far back as the creation of man and then from there spread to the farthest corners of the Earth. Tattooing can be found in great amounts in almost any tribal history world wide and on almost every single continent except for Antarctica which gives the premise that the concept of marking the body is as old as man has been on this Earth.
One of the most nomadic and seafaring races the world has known is that of the Malays, thorough them, it is believed that the art of tattooing has spread. In regards to the Malays, there history can be attributed to those who now reside in Polynesia, Hawaii, Guam and even in partiality to the Native Americans and Mexicans. It would not take long for their concept of tattooing to catch on in almost any land they inhabited. Later this tattooing concept would be found in Japan, followed by China. Then through the rich Silk trade, the art of tattooing would slowly migrate itself into Europe where the Celtics would use them.