A Maori fish hook, tribal turtle, Samoan-Polynesian sleeve and Celtic cross are examples of tribal tattoos. Modern tribal tattoos originate in the ancient tattooing cultures of Polynesia and the Celtic tribes.
Tribal tattoos are characterized by thick black lines creating intricate patterns. For example, the Maori fish hook is a stylized hook with black spaces creating patterns inside. Black lines and patterns make up the turtle, too.
Polynesian tattoos serve as the inspiration for many modern tribal designs. In Polynesian cultures tattooing has social significance. The people of Borneo believe tattoos protect them from pain and diseases. Tribal roses are an example of Bornean tattoos.
The Maori culture of New Zealand, which is part of Polynesia, use tattoos to carve the family history into the skin. Curved lines create the shapes, which are based on the spiral. While Maori people traditionally wore tattoo spirals on their faces, modern Maori tattoos simply incorporate curvilinear forms into stylized designs, such as the hook or a leaf.
Hawaiian tattoos are thought to have magical power. Triangles, squares and crescents creating animals are characteristic of this tribal style.
Celtic tattoos are another example of the tribal tattoo. These incorporate interwoven lines that create knots. A common Celtic tattoo is a cross, though a simple knot is also popular. Tattoo artists also use Celtic knot work to create images such as hearts, shields and animals.