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Tattoo Ideas: Tribal Tattoos

Updated on July 29, 2007

When I hear the words "tribal tattoo", I immediately think of a college frat boy with a black armband tattoo around his bulging bicep. In the 1990s, tribal armbands were practically the official uniform for Frat Boys of America. However, I was surprised to find that tribal tattoos look great on any body part and can be arranged in a variety of sharp, eye-catching designs.

Tribal tattoos, as the name implies, originated among Native American tribes and date back to over 5,000 years. Perhaps they are so prevalent among fraternity brothers due to the fact that the tattoos were originally applied to show loyalty to a particular tribe in native lands. Tattoos were also used to display a person's caste status, wealth, role in the tribe, even to document his brave deeds or societal contributions. They also served a purpose when it came to traveling, tribal tattoos clearly identified a stranger as belonging to a neighboring sect and detailed what rank he held. Later on, tattoos were used to create scenes on the body depicting battles the tribe member took place in. They were also used as memorials for loved ones who had passed away, their memory honored in the form of a soaring eagle. Tattoos were certainly not limited to Native Americans, however. The Yokuts of California used body modification to call attention to the location of a person's supernatural power; the indigenous tribes of New Zealand, Africa, Central America and Hawaii also practiced the art of tattooing.

The ancient patterns and designs of the 14th century have now transformed into swirls, curved lines, spikes, knots, jagged key patterns and totems. They are usually done completely in black ink, also known as blackwork, which looks like a thick, crisp shadow or silhouette. Signs, symbols, letters and words are sometimes inserted into the tribal design. In other instances, the tribal patterns are used to form a larger pattern, such as the tribal wings shown below.

[images courtesy of bmezine]

TRIBAL TATTOO PHOTOS

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MORE TRIBAL PICS

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BLACKWORK TATOOS

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    • profile image

      ryan delos reyes 4 years ago

      ganda grabe kainget

    • profile image

      sridhar  8 years ago

      i love all tose tattoos very much thank u

    • profile image

      sridhar  8 years ago

      i love all tose tattoos very much thank u

    • profile image

      Steve 8 years ago

      Love the pics in this hub. Tattoo artwork is addictive!

    • profile image

      JLT 8 years ago

      Friends don't let friends get tribal.

    • profile image

      Tol'saan 8 years ago

      Some of these are fantastic. My people use many tattoos for the reasons described above. Depending on the cercumstance we have to make them ourselves while keeping the point of what the tattoo does at heart.

    • profile image

      nicole 9 years ago

      these are awesome, i like a lot of them

    • jaymz profile image

      jaymz 9 years ago from USA

      I've never been a big fan of tribal, but some of these are hot.

    • taylorblue profile image

      taylorblue 9 years ago from Canada

      great job!

    • Renaissance profile image

      Renaissance 9 years ago

      Great hub!

    • GreatTattoosNow profile image

      GreatTattoosNow 10 years ago from San Jose

      Another great tattoo hub as you have captured the wide vareity of tribal tattoo designs incredibly well. Nice spread between tribal designs and photos of men and women!