Black and grey tattoo by Mukesh the Founder of RK’s Tattoo studio

Black and grey tattoo by Mukesh the Founder of RK's Tattoo studio Goa

Black and grey tattoos are often called Jailhouse tattoos because they are said to have originated in prisons in the 1970s, though actually their appearance is much older, with evidence of tattoos found on female mummies tracing back to ancient Egypt (2000 BC), and even presumed therapeutic tattoo patterns found on the joints of an Iceman called Otzi (3350 BC), whose mummified body was discovered dating back to the Copper Age. Some of the earliest written evidence is noted as far back as Leviticus circa 1444 BC (in the Bible), where Moses writes “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves (Leviticus 19:28).” In the latter case, scholars believe the earliest tattoos were given as a marking of enslavement and subservience to “the god” of the slave master. Thus, many cultures, even through the Greek and Roman eras, viewed tattoos as sacrilegious symbols of unholiness and slavery.

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