MARKS OF HISTORY: TATTOOS

n The word tattoo comes from the Tahitian tatu which means "to mark something". Polynesian warrior kings were tattooed across their entire body - including eyelids - to reflect their elevated status.

n Early tattoos in the South Pacific were carried out with shark's teeth, a small hammer made from albatross bone and dye made from hibiscus bark.

n One of the favoured Maori designs is of a hammerhead shark, which in South Pacific culture is seen as among the strongest, toughest and most difficult type to catch.

n Tattoos around the wrist and fingers were once thought to ward off illness.

n Vikings are thought to have introduced the tattoo to Britain, but its popularity here took off when Captain Cook's sailors, so impressed by the Maori tattoos they had seen on their travels, decided to have them done themselves.

n Some 75 per cent of people tattooed later regret it.

n It is a myth that all tattoos can now be removed by blasting the area with a high-powered laser, or covering it with a skin graft. Professional tattoos are often impossible to remove without leaving a scar, particularly if they are multicoloured.

n Celebrities who may live to regret their actions include Robbie Williams (Maori shark), Liam Gallagher and Patsy Kensit ("his" and "hers"), Spice Girl Mel C (seven, including a golden dragon and a phoenix). Even Barbie (the doll), in her new Nineties version has a stomach tattoo.

MARK ROWE

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