It will sound surprising yet the tradition of getting body inked is older than most of the modern civilizations. One of the oldest tribal tattoos is African symbol tattoo that was found in most African tribes.
FYI, tribal tattoos carried absolutely different purpose; they told about the position of the wearer in society, what tribe he belonged and details about his life. Tribal tattoo often carried protective purpose. Symbol signs were believed to give special power and strength to the owner. African tribal tattoos did the same job.
The traces of African tribal tattoos are dated BC. The tattoos found on mummies prove that the tradition of getting body inked is more than a body decoration. Dark colored Africans sometimes got scarring as a way to get body decorated. Actually, scarring is now used in many African tribes both by men and women.
Today the idea of African tattoo has changed a little and in the collection of African tattoos we can find the linework of Africa, animal tattoos, the pictures of African landscapes, beautiful black women, the pictures of totem masks and etc.
Most of the African tattoos are complex pictures. Therefore, they are inked in large scales covering a whole back, shoulder or chest. Those kind of tattoos are more suitable for men. On the other hand, we can forget about rules and boundaries when it comes to tattooing.