An important note to consider, whether you’re just getting your first tattoo or are a veteran of the process, is your nervous system. Anywhere that the skin is thin—feet, hands, or clavicle—you will experience enhanced sensitivity. Concomitantly, in places where an abundance of nerves run close to the surface—upper inner arm, back of the knee, hip and groin area, and lower back—tattooing will be more painful.
Following discussions with my colleague Professor Don Brothwell of the University of York, one of the specialists who examined him, the distribution of the tattooed dots and small crosses on his lower spine and right knee and ankle joints correspond to areas of strain-induced degeneration, with the suggestion that they may have been applied to alleviate joint pain and were therefore essentially therapeutic. This would also explain their somewhat 'random' distribution in areas of the body which would not have been that easy to display had they been applied as a form of status marker.
Many people start their tattoo sleeves without intent and that's just fine. If you take the organic approach and let one small tattoo turn into another and somehow tie it all together with a background of some sort later, you'll likely have an armful of meaningful body art. Others go full on with a sleeve from the get-go and that works too. Of course, with this approach, you'll be investing a larger sum of money upfront, and you'll need to dedicate the time in the chair to complete the work. Most likely you'll be going back to the same artist which means their schedule will need to be considered as well. If you have the time and the money to complete the job, get it done. Otherwise start a slower and more balanced approach. Never compromise quality for quantity.
These instruments are also remarkably similar to much later tattooing implements used in 19th-century Egypt. The English writer William Lane (1801-1876) observed, "the operation is performed with several needles (generally seven) tied together: with these the skin is pricked in a desired pattern: some smoke black (of wood or oil), mixed with milk from the breast of a woman, is then rubbed in.... It is generally performed at the age of about 5 or 6 years, and by gipsy-women.”
For more than 5,000 years, people have been subjecting themselves to ink-stained needles in an attempt to turn their bodies into art. The 25th-anniversary edition of Taschen’s 1000 Tattoos explores the history of body art around the world, from Maori facial engravings to skinhead markings to ’20s circus ladies to awful drunken mistakes (hello, ankle dolphin tattoo). Edited by art historian Burkhard Riemschneider and inker of the stars Henk Schiffmacher (who’s also head of the Amsterdam Tattoo Museum), the book offers 1,000 images of people who have permanently altered their bodies with ink in ways shocking (a butt turned into a giant face), beautiful (the work of contemporary tattoo art stars), and unfortunate (so many exes’ names).
The word tattoo, or tattow in the 18th century, is a loanword from the Samoan word tatau, meaning "to strike". The Oxford English Dictionary gives the etymology of tattoo as "In 18th c. tattaow, tattow. From Polynesian (Samoan, Tahitian, Tongan, etc.) tatau. In Marquesan, tatu." Before the importation of the Polynesian word, the practice of tattooing had been described in the West as painting, scarring or staining.