Get Inked: A Tattoo History Quiz

By: Isadora Teich
Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Tattooing has exploded as an art form over the past 20 years, but it's an old practice with a lot of history. Can you stick and poke your way to a high score with some serious tattoo knowledge? Test your tattoo savvy with this HowStuffWorks quiz.

Humans have been tattooing each other dating back how far?

While tattoos are popular today, evidence suggests people have been tattooing each other for over 5,000 years. A tattooed iceman dating back about 5,200 years was discovered at the border of Austria and Italy in 1991.

What style of tattoos looks like photographs on the skin?

These tattoos often require tattooers with a fine art background and look like high-quality photographs on the skin. It can be incredibly expensive to get one of these done well.

Which style of tattooing traditionally features koi fish and geishas?

Japanese tattooing dates back thousands of years and is famously intricate. Authentic Japanese tattooing follows a very strict set of rules and covers large areas of the body.

In which country did a mayor once try to ban tattoos and inspire companies to fire their tattooed employees?

Toru Hashimoto, the former mayor of Osaka, once tried to force city employees to reveal their tattoos so he could fire whoever had any. A court ruled this illegal in 2014.

Which of these religions has a tattoo culture that is thousands of years old?

Hinduism has a long history of tattooing, both temporary and permanent. The earliest Hindu scriptures talk about using plants for marking. Modern Hindus often tattoo religious symbols onto themselves for protection and to attract good karma.

Was tattooing a part of life in ancient Egypt?

Yes. Several female Egyptian mummies have been found with tattoos. Small bronze tattooing instruments dating back to about 1450 B.C. were also found in northern Egypt.

Predesigned tattoos that often decorate the walls of tattoo shops are called:

Tattoo flash are pre-drawn designs that can be found in tattoo shops often in binders and on the walls. Many of these quick and fast tattoos are done in a classic style.

Tattoos meant to enhance natural beauty are called:

Not all tattoos are meant to be obvious. Recently, cosmetic tattoos have gained a lot of popularity. People tattoo fuller eyebrows, more defined lips and, occasionally, even eye makeup on their faces.

What do most tattoo artists use to tattoo in modern shops?

A tattoo machine, which is sometimes called a tattoo gun, is the standard equipment used to tattoo in modern shops. It's controlled by a foot pedal and drives needles full of ink into the skin.

What kind of tattoos started the world of modern tattooing in the West?

The traditional style of tattooing, which is also referred to as American Traditional or Old School, is the oldest form of tattooing in the modern world. It features less color and detail, but solid linework and a lot of tattoo staples like roses and daggers.

What style of tattoo often features bright splashes of color?

Watercolor tattoos often depict elements of nature with bold splashes of color. Sometimes they are just pops of color, but artists often combine this style with other types of tattooing.

In which country is tattooing practiced illegally?

In modern South Korea, you need to have a doctor's license to legally tattoo. Most tattoo artists practice illegally as a part of South Korea's thriving underground tattoo scene.

What is the most well-known American gang tattoo?

A tear drop is the most well-known American prison tattoo. It has numerous meanings, ranging from having committed murder, to having a loved one in jail.

As far as we know, who got tattoos in ancient Egypt?

Only female mummies have been found with tattoos. This has led experts to believe that only women in ancient Egypt got and gave tattoos. It's thought they were used as protective amulets.

Tattoos were popular in the Roman Empire until Emperor Constantine adopted:

Tattoos had been popular amongst Roman soldiers and subjects until Emperor Constantine, who introduced Christianity to the empire, banned them. It was said that tattoos disfigured what God had made.

What type of tattooing utilizes dots instead of shading?

Dotwork tattoos make use of dots in the areas of a tattoo where shading might be in other styles. It is popularly used in geometric designs and smaller tattoos but can be applied to almost any design.

Which method do many people use to give themselves long lasting DIY tattoos?

Many people choose to give themselves simple stick and poke tattoos at home using sterilized needles and dark ink. This can be dangerous if you are not an experienced tattooer or do not use clean tools.

Which style of tattooing is meant to look like ancient tattoos?

Tribal tattoos are meant to look like ancient tattoos. Almost always black or blue, they focus mostly on linework, symmetry and geometric details.

Henna is a temporary tattoo art that comes from which country?

Henna tattooing involves temporarily staining the body with a paste made from henna leaves. These intricate designs were originally only for Indian brides as a part of their wedding rituals.

Native Americans tattooed:

While this varied from tribe to tribe, many Native American groups tattooed both their faces and bodies. One tribe known for this is the Cree.

Thailand's tattoo culture is unique because of its use of:

Thailand's tattoo culture is unique due to the method used to tattoo. Needles are attached to bamboo rods and dark ink is tapped into the skin by hand.

Which style of tattooing focuses entirely on words?

Script tattoos contain only words. While some artists use downloadable fonts, others will create custom fonts for their clients.

Which country was famous for its complex prison tattoos for decades?

In Soviet Russia, prisoners took tattooing to another level with a complex language of images. By your tattoos, other inmates could know what crime you committed, how long you had been in jail and even more personal information.

Why do certain businesses in Japan ban customers with tattoos?

In Japan, tattooing has been associated with the Japanese mafia, the Yakuza, for decades. Tattooing was illegal in Japan until 1948.

How do American prisoners tattoo each other?

Tattooing is illegal in U.S. prisons, so prisoners are forced to improvise tattoo equipment. They often use things like mechanical pencils, magnets and staples.

Which style of tattooing draws the most influence from the traditional style?

Neo-Traditional tattoos keep elements of the traditional style, like bold outlines and a 2-D look, and blend them with elements of other tattoo styles. They are often brighter, more colorful and more detailed than classic tattoos.

In which U.S. state was it illegal to get tattooed until the year 2000?

The widespread legality and acceptance of tattooing are new in the US. In New York City, tattooing was illegal from the 1960s through the 1990s. In Massachusetts, tattooing could lead to a jail sentence up until 2000.

Which of these religions is historically anti-tattoo?

Many believe that the Torah forbids tattoos, making tattooing unpopular amongst very religious Jews. There are some Jewish cemeteries which will not allow tattooed people to be buried there.

Which style of tattooing is inspired by modern influences, like cartoons?

New school tattoos often have cartoon or graffiti influences. They feature bright colors and exaggerated elements. Pop culture icons are often tattooed on people in this style.

Traditional Japanese tattoos are created using what tool?

Genuine traditional Japanese tattooing, called irezumi, is done by hand with a single needle. It is incredibly painful, time-consuming and expensive.

Which style of tattooing involves massive detailed black areas as the key design element.

Blackwork tattoos, also called Neo-Tribal, feature detailed geometric patterns inspired by Polynesian tattoos. These all black tattoos range from small and subtle to large and bold.

What colors does modern tattoo ink come in?

Modern tattoo ink is made by mixing pigments and carrier fluids. It comes in almost any color you can imagine.

How can tattoos be removed?

Tattoos can be removed with laser surgery. Black is the easiest color to remove.

Which famous New Zealand tribe is known for its facial tattoos?

The Maori tribe has a tattoo culture that dates back thousands of years. Men tattoo their entire face, and women only tattoo their chins and nostrils.

What tattoo style features symmetrical shapes?

Geometric tattoos are often intricate and done in black ink. Artists who work in this style use symmetry and repeating shapes to create unique designs.

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