A Brief History of Body Piercing

A Brief History of Body Piercing

Body piercing is truly ancient with the earliest recorded piercing appearing on a frozen mummy found in an Austrian glacier in 1991. The body had several expanded ear piercings measuring between 7mm and 11mm.

Other early mentions of body piercing come from the bible itself especially Genesis 24:22 where nose jewellery (often misquoted as earrings) were given as a gift to Rebekah, wife of Isaac.

Roman soldiers are also said by many to have had their nipples pierced as some sort of right of passage but there is little or no evidence of this. In fact many articles will state that the piercing was used to somehow ‘hold their cloaks in place’. Anyone who has had a nipple piercing will tell you how uncomfortable this would probably be if worn for any length of time and let’s think about it, there would be far better ways to fasten a cloak. The story seemed to originate from pamphlets published by Doug Malloy in the 70’s to help drum up business for his piercing studio. Many of the pamphlets published by him contained inaccurate or fictional information although there is little doubt that he was one of the pioneers of modern day body piercing in the USA.

Many other cultures and civilizations have practiced piercing through the ages including the Aztecs, Mesoamericans and many Middle Eastern and African cultures. Few can have failed to see images from African tribes where lip and lobe stretching using enormous disks is common practice and often considered a sign of great beauty.

Piercing in Europe has been around since at least the 16th century with ear piercing being especially popular during Elizabethan times. More ‘exotic’ piercings grew in popularity during Victorian times. Prince Albert is said to have had his penis pierced to allow attachment so that less movement showed when dressed, although little hard evidence exists to support this. However, he still had one of the most popular male genital piercing named after him – The Prince Albert.

Apart from the ever-popular ear piercings, body piercing then lost popularity until the 1960’s when the hippy cultures and gay community began to take up piercing again. The advent of punk shortly afterwards gave it more mainstream appeal although it never became truly popular until recent years. We are now in the midst of an explosion caused in the main by the popularity of piercing with many of today’s pop icons.

With eyebrow piercing appearing on members of bands such as Take That and other popular musicians quickly following, the public were quick to jump on the bandwagon and a huge boom in facial and the ever-popular belly button piercing resulted. With the plethora of jewellery now available for all piercings to make many look truly stunning there seems to be no slowdown in its popularity in sight.

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