Tattoo vs. Piercing: Where will your next Tattoo go?

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Difference between Tattoo and Piercing

There was a time when tattoos and piercings were decidedly edgy statements that were the sole domain of people who lived on the fringes of society. While both accouterments have arguably gained wider acceptance in recent years, they are still novel enough to attract attention in most instances, favorable or otherwise. Here then is a comparison of some of the more significant characteristics of each.


Early History

The earliest acknowledged example of a tattoo was found on the Otzi Iceman in 1991. The Otzi dates back to around 4,000 B.C. and he bears no less than fifty-eight tattoos all over his body, many of which were nothing more than crude dots and lines. To date, no special significance or symbolism has been attributed to these tattoos. However, some scientists have suggested that these markings may be signs of a medical or spiritual healing process. The same Otzi man also bore marls of piercings, making him the bearer of the earliest examples of this form of body modification as well. In addition, the practice was known to have existed as early as 4,000 years ago, when it was widely practiced by the ancient Aztec, Mayan, Kwakiutul, and Tlinglit civilizations.


Some of the earliest usages of tattoos were for tribal purposes, either for identification or to signify the accomplishment of a particular state or stage in life. Different tribes therefore had different styles and methods of imprinting the skin with these marks. Some of the other purposes of tattoos were religious or spiritual in nature, although most people use them more for self-expression than anything else nowadays. Piercing also originated from similarly religious and culturally significant purposes, and the practice has gradually given way to a more personal means of expression. In fact, many feel that both tattoos and piercings have lost much of their original significance, and they are more fashion statements than signs of outward rebellion and personal expression nowadays.


Traditionally, getting a tattoo meant enduring long hours of minute, although excruciating pain. This is because the process typically involved stabbing the skin repeatedly with a needle that deposited ink into the skin. Things haven’t changed much since the early days of tattooing however, and even with the advent of high-tech needles and tattooing guns, the process is just as painful as ever, with tattoo removal being even more so. Piercing isn't much less pain free either, and depending on which part of the body you want to have pierced, the process can be considerably more painful than tattooing.



  • Earliest example was seen in the Otzi Iceman, in 1991. Otzi however dates back to 4,000 B.C.
  • Earliest uses were for medical or spiritual purposes
  • Early examples were usually tribal in nature.
  • Polynesian tattooing is on of the earliest recognizable examples
  • Is difficult and/or painful to remove


  • Also found in the Otzi Iceman
  • Can be found in numerous cultures
  • Early uses were for preparation prior to human sacrifice
  • Was though by many to get rid of demons
  • Modern form of bellybutton piercing is a fairly recent occurrence
  • Generally heals on its own once object is removed


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