Drawings and styles of chisel tattoos

Before people did their tattoo to the dermograph, there were chisel tattoos. It is an ancient method of sculpting the skin with sticks (eg bamboo, animal bones, etc.) such as dermograph, needles, and natural dyes. The tattoo artists stick the stick repetitively to bring the ink back into the skin, which means it is more painful than the dermograph.

Chisel tattoosHistory in brief

Ancient civilizations around the world practiced the art of hitting tattooing tools, but this art has continued to survive in some indigenous cultures in Samoa, Borneo, Philippines, among the Pacific islands. Samoens calls this art “tatau” what is supposed to mean “sinking” into English, although, Western explorers had a hard time spelling out the word; Then, they counted to call it “tattoo”. The men of the indigenous tribes used traditional methods to ‘paint’ the symbols on their bodies. These drawings and symbols should represent the personality, experience, and role / status of an individual in his / her tribe. Tattoos are usually done on the chest, shoulders or biceps, legs and face.

For example, tribal warriors from Kalinga, Philippines were tattooed with the village’s “Mambabatok”, after successfully killing an enemy. The tattoo is like a mark of honor that one deserves after winning a war against the tribes of sagada and Bontoc. With its rich history, being tattooed by a true tattoo artist with a knife in its natural environment is like a gem for many people.

See also: How to Choose a Tattoo in Cuff

However, hammer tattooing is a tradition of pigmentation in many Western indigenous cultures. Direct descendants of tribal tattoo artists choose to pursue other career paths brought with modernity and Western influences.

Fortunately, there has been a resurgence of tattoos in general since the last 2 decades, and many fans of body transformation are regaining interest in this old tradition. Many tattoo artists even travel around the world to learn more about sculpture techniques and try to bring something closer to their own community.


Samoa tattoo designs are inspired by subjects of the sea such as turtles, shells, fish, etc. These figures symbolize longevity, abundance, and peace. Elements of nature such as the sun and the ocean (eg, waves, spirals, etc.) are also popular as images that express value and femininity. In rare occasions, you may also be able to see the “Marquesan cross” in a Samoan tattoo design, which is the local way of representing the balance among all the natural elements


Originally from Borneo, the Iban tattoos of the Dayak people are characterized by their great representations of human figures, animals and plants spiritually charged. Floral patterns are common and are then accompanied with images of animals and plants.

Iban tattoo artists communicate with their spiritual guides first to create a drawing of a tattoo. Tattoos are made on Dayak people for a ritual or for a head hunter purpose. The exhausting session can last up to 8 hours, depending on the size of the tattoo.

Tribal Tattoo Kalinga

Also known as “Batek” in the Philippines, Kalinga’s tattoo designs are inspired by the courage of tribal warriors. Back when headhunters were still admitted, warriors who were able to cut off the enemy’s head were entitled to a tattoo on their torso or back once back home. The drawing shares great resemblances to the armory although more abstract on the end. There is the form V marked to show the image of the oracle of the eagle, the messenger of the God Kabunia.

Gray and Black Latino

Derived mainly from Aztec and Mexican influence, these drawings are easily identified by their black and gray shades compared to the blue of the Pacific islands. The Aztec tattoos represent the rite of passage, the social status, and the victory of wars, all that was done in honor to the local gods. For example, sun drawing is a tattoo that represents the sun god Huitzilopochtli, the snake is the most powerful Quetzalcoatl, and images of warriors representing Tezcatlipoca. Other popular symbols that include the eagle that symbolizes the strength, the Aztec calendar, and other elements of nature.


It is perhaps the Micronesian tribes who have had the most interest in chisel tattoos due to their customs and traditions. Women can have the tattoo referred to as vagina and buttocks, which can be remade every time they give birth, to keep the abdomen firm and for a purpose of beauty.

In most cases, island people mimic what they see around them to make their tattoo designs, but the representation would vary depending on the location of the tattoo. For example, a tattoo on the face would indicate the rank in a person’s society. Dolphin tattoos are also common among men for their shark protection representation as they travel to sea to fish for fish.
In summary

The growing interest of tattooing with the chisel in people is probably enough to revive the old form of body art. Modern tattoos have approximately 250 years of history since the beginning of the archaic tattoo with the chisel, which makes it fascinating.

It is quite interesting to see that, scissor tattoo scenes are still very common in some areas of Borneo, Hawaii, and Polynesia. But if you want to meet a chisel tattoos woman whose experience includes the 20th century with her headhunters and the new millennium, go to Kalinga in the Philippines and meet the oldest Whang-Od aged 93 years.

Above all, the above tribal tattoo designs have great social and cultural significance for these native tribes. For some tribes even, tattoos are spiritually charged so wearing them demand a great responsibility – to be respectful of nature.