Polynesians & Tattoos
(The sea robber’s role in tattoos)
By: D.R.A.


When and where tattoos essentially originated remains a mystery. Some historians argue that it was the primitive African tribes and early Egyptians who started tattoos, while others declare the ancient Celts and/or Polynesians were the true founders of this alluring art form.
One question remains.  Who introduced the trend of tattoos to western civilization? The answer, beyond a doubt, is pirates and buccaneers.

Tattooed pirates, who often stalked the Mediterranean and Atlantic Oceans transportation routes, were barred from stopping in most of Europe’s sea ports. Pirates relied on islands in the Caribbean for food and other living necessities. It was on these Polynesian islands where sea robbers were introduced to body art tattoos. Sailors transporting valuable goods in their vessels used telescopes to identify pirate ships and feared the heavily tattooed robbers more than the threat of choppy waters and hurricanes.

Citizens in civilized countries detested pirates or other people with tattoos and often lynched anyone wearing them. They were frequently charged with robbery and sentenced to death by either hanging or gruesome decapitation.
Ruthless pirates such as Blackbeard, Black Bart, Henry Morgan and Calico Jack were all known for their heavy tattoos.  Sea men who fortunate enough to survive a violent pirate attack often returned to their villages with detailed stories about these mysterious figures.
Pirates were in essence gang members who operated similar to that of modern day organized criminal gangs.

Some Mediterranean pirate crews were more violent than others, depending on their individual constitutions.  They made their own rules, adopted their own flags, and created their own unique symbols.
Like the vultures they once were pirates where notorious for killing rival buccaneers and taking claim to their “territories”.
 Becoming a pirate was a life time commitment.  Sea thieves who attempted to flea the ship and change their immoral lifestyles were often brutally murdered by their own crew members. Pirates had to follow their Privateer's rules. The rape of woman was banned and so was stealing from ones own “Company”. Pirates could not strike their fellow comrades or keep secrets from them. Consequences varied, depending on which rule was broken. Some consequences were as minor as a day without water, while more serious consequences involved broken bones or even death.
 The Golden Age of Piracy lasted only 120 years from the 1500's to the mid 1600's.
In conclusion, tattooed pirates did live dishonorable lives.  They ruthlessly caused the pain and agony of millions of our ancestors, but one thing we must appreciate about these ancient wicked low lives is how they brought the trend of tattoos to western society.

Pirate Tattoos

Tattoo History

Tattoo Dan