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Body Piercing – The History and Tradition

Body piercing has been part of human tradition for nearly 5000 years now. It is not just a latest trend that we’ve picked up in the past two or three decades. Several cultures from the ancient past, like the Egyptians, Mayans, Romans, Aztecs, Indians and many others have been into this practice of getting various parts of their bodies pierced. Of course, each one of these cultures had piercings for their own religious and traditional reasons. But since when, the hippies came into being, body piercing has become more of a fashion statement and people of several nations across the world have now began embracing this culture.

The History

  • The oldest mummy found to date, Otzi, the Iceman, in Europe, had an earring nearly 11 millimeters in diameter.
  • The pharaohs were known to pierce their belly buttons with gold rings. Ordinary citizens during the Egyptian civilization were forbidden from body piercing though.
  • The Romans, including Julius Ceaser used to have their nipples pierced, as a sign of masculinity.
  • The Mayans and Aztecs had their tongues and lips pierced to please their gods. While they had their nasal septum pierced to scare their enemies away.
  • The New Guinea primitives in fact used to adorn their bodies with rings made of various materials like ivory, feathers and bones.
  • As centuries passed, the sailors used to wear earrings, or they had their arms pierced, which was of course part of a superstition i order to have a safe journey.
  • In the Renaissance period, the rich wore earrings made of pearls or diamonds, which was the then fashion statement and an exhibition of their wealth.
  • In the Victorian Era, men and women began to get their bodies pierced for achieving sexual pleasures.
  • Come 20th century, as mentioned above, it was the hippies who began this culture all over again. In fact, hippies did borrow this culture from Indian women who usually have their noses pierced as part of their culture.

History of Nose Piercing

Nose piercing is 4000 years old and it is first known to have began in the Middle East. It slowly moved to India in the mid 16th century, courtesy the entry of Mughals. The West, although did not get used to this culture until the 1970s.

History of Tongue Piercing

Tongue piercing began in the Americas and it was a huge ritual for the Mayans, Aztecs, Tlingit and the Haida tribes. While they believed it pleased their gods, the more recent piercings of the tongue is to derive oral sexual pleasure.

History of Ear Lobe Piercing

History shows that this was the first region in the body that is known to have been pierced (the Iceman mummy found in Europe proves this). Both men and women are into piercing their ears, although in the West, this practice is considered to be more effeminate.

History of Lip Piercing

Piercing the lips, especially with a ring is a tradition of only two tribes, the Dongon tribes and the Nubas. The Aztecs and the Mayans pierced their lips with labrets while the Makololo tribes wear lip plates.

Nasal Septum Piercing

Even this, dates back to the Mayans and Aztecs, and as matter of fact, the nasal septum was he second most preferred area in the body for piercing. In India, this is still a proper culture today, and many women get their septum pierced at a very young age itself.

History of Navel Piercing

Navel piercing is a more recent trend, and a reason for this to come into vogue was the bikini culture that began in the 1950s. By the 80s, navel piercing (only in women though) became a fashion statement.

History of Nipple Piercing

Piercing nipples was an exhibition of masculinity in the Roman army. During the mid 14th century, women clothing  was such that their bosom were clearly visible which brought about the idea of decorating their bosoms. the In the 19th century, bosom rings came into being.

Body piercing is not just a vogue that has started among the youth of today. Mankind has been into this culture for a very long time now!

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