for tattooed people, and those who want to be

Ancient Ink


Proue de canoë Maori (Dahlem/Berlin)Mark your calendars for Sunday, October 12. The History Channel will be rerunning “Ancient Ink.”

Host Craig Reynolds travels around the world to document traditional methods and styles of tattooing, and has himself tattooed in traditional ways by several artists.

The final artist is Zulu, of Zulu Tattoo in Los Angeles. My daughter and I each got two tattoos in Zulu’s shop, although not by the master himself, who is in such great demand (and quite rightly so) that one has to make an appointment months in advance.

Here is the link to information on the History Channel web site.

Creative Commons License photo credit: dalbera

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Author: infmom

I got my first tattoo when I was 46. I hope the people who read this blog don't have to wait that long. I love talking about body art.


  1. By the way, my email address is if anyone has pics of that tattoo of the dog tags handin from barbwire…………

  2. I was watching Ancient Ink on the history channel yesterday and saw a set of dogtags on barbwire that I gotta find. If anyone out there saw that tattoo and can email it to me, I sure would appreciate it.

  3. hey everyone. i saw that episode and i would love to get a tattoo done using the ancient needle an
    thread method. but dont know much about it besides what they showed on ancient ink. does any1
    know were i could find more info on that method of tattooin?

  4. Hello all…I’ve also been tattooed at Zulu by King Afa to get a Maori Kiri Tuhi done, made two trips from NYC to have it finished and I love it. I’m currently setting up a trip to New Zealand and I MUST have ink done while there. I’ve already got one artist in mind but maybe Dan can help me with the name of the Maori artist featured on the show. I’ve tried to search his name but I’m positive I’m spelling it wrong. Thanks in advance.

  5. I had my second and third tattoos done at Zulu Tattoo, but not by Zulu himself. Even ten years ago you had to wait months to get an appointment with him. He did compliment my multicolored Chinese dragon design, as applied to my shoulder by Lantz. I agree, Zulu is amazing. I’d love to see him get a show, but then people would have to wait years for an appointment. 🙂

  6. Falconer, I did a screenshot of the solar cross design Colin did on Prof. Helland, and uploaded it online.

    Go to Flickr and search under ‘people’ for my photostream (debris7).


    • Hey Dan, I really liked the hawaiian tattooing style and was wondering what the name of the artist who did the tatto was. I wanted to see if i were able to get a tattoo done like that.

  7. Hi all –

    Glad to have joined in the discussion.

    There was initially interest by History Channel in making this into a series, but its initial ratings weren’t strong enough. However, this show has continued to air and pull in decent ratings around the world – so its clear there is viewer interest out there. But there is no 2nd hour being made right now. Sad, I know. I really wanted to hire Zulu to be the host – he is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, and would have made a great tattoo series host.

    Also, you guys would be interested in the fact that the initial show was a 2 hour special, that included a number of really cool other segments that aren’t in the 1 hour version currently airing, and which is on youtube. In fact, i just watched the yt version last night, and its missing some scenes – not sure why.

    i may have to find a way to get the 2 hour version online for viewing. its pretty cool – more scenes in japan, military tattoos, more prison tattoos, a tattoo history museum, and the lizard man.

    To answer some specific questions raised above,

    -the Japanese tattoo artist in Yokohama is Horiyoshi III, perhaps the most revered tattoo artist in Japan. It took many months to get him to allow us to visit him, he is much in demand. There’s a bunch of articles about him at needlesandsins (dot com).

    -We found Colin Dale, the guy who did the solar cross, via the tattoo shop he used to work at in Denmark, Kunsten pa Kroppen. Another artist at that shop, Erik Reime, also focuses on ancient tattoos, using old Bronze Age, Viking, and Inuit methods and designs. Like hand poking, sewing, etc.

    -Obviously, the Solar Cross (or sun cross) is an ancient symbol with meaning that traces back to the neolithic period, very much predating the modern hate movement. It has strong connections to the Nordic lands and was once known as “Odin’s cross”. Prof. Helland had that design put on him b/c it connected him to his Norwegian ancestors. (just to note, wiccans use the solar cross to represent the four seasons of the year, and in astronomy, it represents the earth.)


  8. falconer, unfortunately a lot of lovely ancient symbols have been corrupted by modern-day people. The swastika was an ancient symbol of good fortune till Hitler got his hands on it. I wish there were some way of wiping out the bad associations and going back to the original intent!

  9. Dan, I have a question for you. Can you tell me what is the name of Japanese tattoo artist which Craig visited in Yokohama?

  10. Hi again all, I was searching the web and found several references of the SOLAR CROSS being used by white supremisists.

    Hatred for humanity is something I don’t wish to be a part of even unknowingly.

    Anyone know anything of this. Much appreciated.


  11. Hooray for Youtube !!
    Thanks Dan for giving a heads up on that. I’ve watched that episode several times with my sketch pad in hand and still don’t have it down.
    Good job on Ancient Ink. When can we expect a second episode ? Plenty of room on that young man 😉

    Slan agus Benoigh. falconer.

  12. Dan, thank you so much for joining the discussion! The show has certainly stirred up a lot of ongoing interest and I’m glad to hear we can watch it on YouTube now.

  13. Hi all – I was the Producer and Writer of Ancient Ink, so glad you all have seen it and liked it.

    You can see the entire show in 6 parts on Youtube – someone uploaded it there (not me or the network).

    Search for “Tattoo- Amazing Tribal Art 1 of 6”

    The needle and thread tattoo you see is being done by Colin Dale.

    Colin lives in Denmark – we flew him to California for the show. Colin is Canadian and does amazing ancient tattoo reproductions. The one he did on tattooed Canadian Professor Chris Helland.

    is a replica of a Bronze Age tattoo in the shape of a Solar Cross. Search for “Tattoo- Amazing Tribal Art 4 of 6” and the segment starts at 04:25, design is seen at 05:33.

    The needle and thread approach was definitely from the Inuits, but also other ancient cultures did tattoos that way. When we finished the show, we were pretty sure that this was the most painful method of all.


  14. Happened to catch Ancient Ink again. Got some closer looks at the “stitched” tattoo. It was done on a man known as the tattooed professor didn’t recall the artist, but it was in Santa Barbara CA.
    I am one of two or three humans (not counting) African Pygmys that doesn’t have a facebook account.
    I’ve looked over the History Channel’s webpage but couldn’t get anywhere.
    Ahd mor Daniel.

  15. I’m sorry, Daniel, I have no more information about that show. Best to see if you can buy or rent a DVD and look it over for more information about what you want.

  16. it would be easyest to contact me on my face book because i hardly ever use my email, just type my name in & my picture is of a guy with a white shirt with fake blood on the shirt & i have my head tilted down, please somebody contact me with the info of that form of tattooing because i have yet to find anything on it and everytime i try looking for it the only thing that comes up is prison tattoo thingys >.<

  17. what was the type of tattooing they showed the guy get when the tattoo artist used a niddle and inked thread and the host got it on the right side of his chest?

    and what state did he get it in because i would truly love to get one but i have no infomation on how or where to get it, so if anyone know please contact me because i would love to get the tattoo!

  18. falconer, that is really interesting! I had no idea they did things like that. Thanks for telling us.

  19. Watched an episode of Animal Cops the other day. They had rescued a white horse with eye problems.
    A vet suggested they have the area around the horse’s eyes tattooed black to help reflect/absorb UV rays, much like a football player puts black grease stripes under their eyes.

    The put the horse under and had a local artist tattoo a small strip around the eyes. You couldn’t really see it later, but it solved the eye problem. Cool, huh ?

    There is a sub-species of springbuck antelope in South Africa that is pure white. Not rare at all. Funny thing is they have a little black mascara sized area around their eyes. Just like the tattooed horse, only Nature held the tattoo gun.

  20. A real falconer–I don’t think I’ve ever met a falconer before. I’m glad you chose to comment here. 🙂

    A tattoo is almost equivalent to skinning your knee in that it damages a larger area of your skin. If you healed fast from those kinds of things when you were younger, a tattoo would heal fast too.

    As I recall, the tattoo in Ancient Ink didn’t belong to the person who got it applied, it was an ancient design. So you and your artist could adapt it however you wished. If you go ahead and get it, I do hope you’ll post a picture here.

    Marte aka infmom

  21. Yes infmom, I did qualify that day. As far as infections go, I’m lucky in a way. I have a elevated white blood cell count due to having rhuematic fever as a child and fight infections well. A cut will scab over in a day on me. My young hawk is still learning manners and I get grabbed/scratched when I’m not careful. I bleed, but heal quick.
    Never been tattooed, so I don’t know how fast that would heal.
    I do like that tat featured in that part of Ancient Ink.
    I have talked to a great local artist about it and the possibility of shading the bold lines to give it depth. I have a spot on my left pec that is free of moles. I don’t want an exact copy of someone elses tattoo. Just not sure how to change it.
    I’m as Northern European American as one can be, so this design feels right.

    Talk later, Dan aka falconer.

  22. falconer, I’m with you on that. I remember reading about that needle and thread technique years ago (I think it was an article about how the ancient Inuit people tattooed themselves) and I remember thinking “oh boy, NO way.”

    I’m sure you went on to qualify even with a beat-up thumb. 🙂 If the thread had been dipped in ink, though, you probably would have wound up with a dandy little infection that would have been pretty uncomfortable on your gun hand.

    My son got “tattooed” by the pavement in a bike accident and he says he’d just as soon have gotten his first tattoo some other way!

  23. Well, I watched the show AGAIN. Finally caught the whole part of the needle and thread tat.
    I think I got a good sketch of it.

    One thing for damn sure, there’s no way I’d go through the needle and inked thread ordeal. I don’t have the stones for that.
    I did get a cut on the knuckle of my thumb stitched without numbing. I was qualifying on a police gun range and my thumb got in the way of the .45’s slide. No way I was not going to qualify, and no way I was going to “puss out” in front of a bunch of young cops, being the old guy.
    Four little stitches by a not yet qualified EMT didn’t really hurt. Looking back, I should have had him dip the suture thread in ink. Would have made a cool little tat!

  24. b.sciens, nobody said anything of the kind. If you want to comment here, you need to read what’s actually written and mind your manners when you write. Otherwise you’ll get banned.

  25. To say that “getting a traditional Japanese tattoo makes american tattoo’s seem like paint by numbers”, is quite insulting. You need to choose your words more carefully lest you alienate every tattoo artist in the U.S.
    Please don’t display your ignorance for the whole world to see again. Of course Knowledgeable tattoo artists could out you as one of the few males with a Taurus TRAMP STAMP. I can see why you wanted to hide it with a maori tattoo.

  26. i loved watching the documentary!

  27. Does anyone know where I can find a picture of the tat on Ancient Ink show done on a man’s chest (pec muscle) with needle and inked thread ? I’ve watched the show twice and keep missing that part.
    Many thanks.

  28. I’m sorry I don’t know the names of the artists. Probably the best thing to do is see if you can find the documentary online or via a video rental service.

  29. What was the name of the Hawaiian artist?

  30. Thank you, Mary, I’m glad we now have that information!

  31. The Japanese Traditional Hero shown on the woman’s back in Yokahama appears to be similar to Inuyasha, a character in Japanese Manga/Anime(cartoon) named for the character. Hope this is good info.

  32. What Japanese traditional hero was tattooed on the woman’s back in the Ancient Ink program?

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