The earliest known tattoos were found on the bodies of Egyptian mummies, dating back to roughly 2000 B.C., according to the Smithsonian.com. Among the pharaohs and commoners, these tattoos have mostly been found on female mummies. It is believed these tattoos worked as therapeutic, permanent amulets to help women through childbirth — being adorned around the abdomen, on the thighs and the breasts.
Fast forward several centuries into the mid-18th century, Native American women used the act of getting tattooed similarly to acupuncture, to alleviate pain, according to Time.com.
The classic pin-up style, bold-lined tattoo, however, had its birthplace in New York City. Martin Hildebrandt, first professional tattoo artist, tattooed Civil War soldiers as a form of identification.
Now, tattoos mean so much more than just a way to tell soldiers a part. From religious and spiritual sentiments to permanent memories stamps, every line of carefully crafted ink tells a story.
Stephanie Sanchez, a junior double majoring in psychology and English, has ten tales to tell across her body. Among them is a chain of tattoos around her ankle. Using the anklet of tattoos as a permanent passport, Sanchez gets a new stamp every time she visits a new city as a way to remember all she sights she took in.
“My first anklet piece is the Liberty Bell,” Sanchez said. “I got it when I traveled to Philadelphia for a couple days by myself to see my favorite band in concert since they weren’t coming to Florida.
“The second charm on my anklet is a ferris wheel. I got it to represent the same ferris wheel from Camp Flog Gnaw. I’ve gone to the carnival two years in a row now, and it was the happiest place on Earth for me. My newest charm is the Statue of Liberty, representing New York City. I lived there most of my life so when I went back a couple weeks ago, I had to add it on.”
This summer Sanchez is studying abroad in London and maybe even a few other countries to close the chain.
“I’m also planning on visiting other places in Europe, most likely Paris and maybe Ireland since there’s a festival happening there the same time I’ll be studying abroad,” Sanchez said. “Hopefully, the whole anklet will be complete or close to it by the end of the summer.”
As Sanchez clasps the final charms on her anklet, Robert Andre Allen, a sophomore majoring communications, is trying his hand at being on both sides of the needle.
“I have always admired the craft and I yearned to perform tattoos myself,” Allen said. “I stumbled upon the craft of stick-and-poke tattoos, also known as hand poked tattoos, and I did extensive research on how to do it. I gathered the proper supplies and went for it.”
Allen recently did his own cover up, covering his first tattoo that he got at 16 years old.
“I got my first tattoo the week I turned 16,” Allen said. “It was an equal sign, to represent my undying ode to equality. However, it was poorly done and I chose to cover it mainly because my fingers seemed like good real estate, so I thought of a lightning bolt. I realized it could seamlessly align with an equal sign.”
Allen has completed a few other stick-and-pokes on himself, including a smiley face on his thigh close to his knee. He is also adorned by some professionally-done tattoos, unlike Grace Howell, a sophomore majoring in public health, who only has one tiny tattoo. Howell got her first and only tattoo in Ybor City during her first semester of college.
“My tattoo is on my wrist,” Howell said. “It is a simple, handwritten-style font that says, ‘Here I am. Send me.’ This phrase is close to my heart because it embodies all that I stand for.”
Howell plans to use her degree in public health to teach basic public health techniques in underdeveloped countries. The verse, from Isaiah 6:8 in the Bible, continually reminds her of the purpose she has made for her life.
“In this verse, God asks who he can send out into the world to make a difference,” Howell said. “I chose to put this verse on my wrist to symbolize me volunteering to go out and serve.”
As Howell looks to the future, Alexandra Núñez, a sophomore majoring in marketing, uses her tattoo to help her take gradual steps into the future and to help overcome some of the hardships she has experienced.
“My tattoo is on my left forearm,” Núñez said. “It shows the growing stages of a rose. My tattoo means that no matter what you go through in life, you’ll overcome it and continue to grow. I got it because I went through a sexual assault recently and it was a tough time for me. This tattoo just always reminds me that I’ll get through it.”
According to StatisticBrain.com, 45 million Americans have at least one tattoo. That amounts to 45 million stories, reminders and memories adorning the bodies of all those Americans.