About 2.500 before Christ old Malayan people from the asian mainland colonized the Indonesian archipelago. In the second part of the first century before Christ the immigration from southern China came and around the turning point in history the colonization from people from India started who brought buddhistic and hinduistic ideas with them including the art of the religious tattoo.
The people of Indonesia believed the soul of a human can only feel at home if the body is completed by decorations on the skin. Therefore the so called Titi spiral markings were tataued on hands, forearms and lower legs at a certain age. In addition men also often received a sinuous chest shield reaching as far up as the cheeks. The tatau equipment was a wooden sledge and a grip made from deer horn with a brass needle. A petroleum grime containing color was spread on the brass needle and the pattern, which was first drawn on the particular body part, was grated into the skin. The skin art survived the colonization of the Europeans after the discovery of the sea route to India in 1498.
Until today it is almost impossible to tell how many of the 20.000 Indonesian islands between Asia and Australia are even inhabited. The current estimate is around 6.000. Not until the declaration of independence of Indonesia in 1954 the tattooing and also the traditional peak chiseling of the teeth was prohibited by the government. Only on a few islands the tradition of body art is still preponderance since then. Especially the island of Borneo kept up the tradition of the tatau as independent and world wide recognized art form.
Source : http://tattoojoy.com/tattoo_history/indonesia.php