The oldest human-bone tattoo kit in the world

Archaeologists from the Australian National University discovered the world’s oldest known tattooing kit, which dates back 2700 years.

Four tattooing tools, including two believed to be made of human bones, were discovered on Tongatapu Island, Tonga’s main island, in 1963, but their importance was only recently discovered. For more info about temporary tattoo click here.

Tattooing in the Polynesian style is still done with similar tools today, demonstrating how long the technique has been practised.

“It’s an unbroken practise,” said Associate Professor Geoff Clark of the Australian National University’s School of Culture, History and Language. “Even people from the Cook discovery days went to Tonga in the 1770s and saw the Polynesian people were using tools that were very similar small bone combs used in the same way, so it’s a very durable tradition,” he said.

While the idea of human bones being fashioned into tools may be unsettling to others, Associate Professor Clark believes it most definitely added an extra layer of meaning to the tattoos, which are rich in cultural significance.

“Since tattoos are creating a permanent design on the body, for important life events or to display status or for medicinal use or protection,” he said, “the fact that people are using tools to create this significant decoration and they are most likely made from their ancestors’ bones shows the cultural significance of the tools.”

The artefacts, which include a narrow comb, a haft, a mallet, carbon pigment, and a mortar and pestle, are thought to have belonged to a single tattoo artist, according to researchers. An ink pot was also discovered, but it is thought to have been lost in Canberra’s bushfires in 2003.

“The question has always been: were these tools brought to the Pacific through migration, or were they established in Polynesia, where tattooing is well-known, and then spread from there?” According to Associate Professor Clark. For more info about tattoo art click here.

The Negative Aspects of Tattoo Kits

Before we go any further, it’s important to note that finding a talented tattoo artist and apprenticeing with them is the best way to begin a career or even an enthusiastic study in tattoo artistry. Self-taught tattoo artistry really is a bad idea. The risk of infection, permanent scarring, and other medical risks from someone who isn’t properly qualified in the craft is just too big to take.

Which brings us to the key reason why tattoo kits are frowned upon by industry experts: they present a dangerous lure for novice non-apprentices to practise tattoo artistry under extremely hazardous conditions. Since most retailer websites do not demand any form of proof of experience before selling you a kit, virtually anyone can purchase a cheap tattoo kit online. Doing a background check on every single customer, on the other hand, is a time-consuming procedure that negates the convenience and cost-saving advantages of shopping online in the first place. Many tattoo kits contain educational materials that strongly promote healthy and sanitary practises as a compromise. This helps to minimise the number of people who unwittingly spread pathogens or tattoo others in dangerous situations, but it’s no substitute for taking a blood-borne pathogen prevention class (required in most states to work as a tattoo artist).

Another explanation why most practitioners avoid tattoo kits is that many of the available kits on the market do not include the highest quality materials. Using low-quality materials can lead to a slew of issues. The aesthetic quality of your tattoo may be severely harmed by an incorrectly tuned unit, inferior ink, or a poorly made needle. But that’s not all; due to tainted ink or poorly sealed plastic needles, often in completely sterile conditions, inexpensive kits have a small risk of spreading infections.

The Benefits of Tattoo Kits on a Practical Level

Despite the controversy and negative perceptions, tattoo kits can be incredibly useful and are highly respected by many industry professionals. This is for two very good reasons: cost and comfort.

Sure, there are a lot of cheap “beginner” tattoo kits on the market, but those are easy to find and avoid. In the tattoo industry, there are a number of well-known companies that organise, bundle, and distribute high-quality kits at very reasonable prices (compared to ordering the individual products and supplies separately). These cost-effective savings are particularly advantageous for privately owned tattoo parlours that must handle overhead costs in order to stay in operation. For apprentices, a low-cost tattoo kit provides a low barrier to entry into the industry, allowing aspiring artists to follow their dreams without taking a huge financial risk.

The ease of use of premium level kits cannot be overstated. As previously stated, you could either go through the painstaking process of locating each and every machine part, bottle of ink, needle, and sheet of stencil paper from a separate seller, or you could purchase all of the required supplies from a single vendor. The alternative appeals to you the most?