Piercing is one of the world’s oldest forms of body modification. Ears, noses, lips, navels, and genitals all appear to have been pierced since ancient times. Piercing is currently enjoying a surge in popularity, but how many people know where the ancient tradition comes from? These facts from the history of piercing will give you a glimpse into the practice as it used to be.
1. The oldest evidence of piercing was actually found on the oldest mummy we have discovered, Otzi the Iceman, whose remains have been put at 5300 years old. He had an ear piercing gauged to 11 mm.
2. Earrings have been signs of a myriad of different things, including prostitution, wealth, nobility, slavery, improving long-distance vision, keeping out demons, and fertility.
3. Sailors in the Middle Ages would pierce their ears in the hope that if they drowned, the earrings would pay for a Christian burial if their bodies washed up to shore.
4. Lip stretching is traditional in many African and American tribes. The Mursi of Ethiopia sometimes stretch their lips up to 15 centimeters.
5. Between approximately the 4th and 16th centuries in Europe, ear piercing went out of style because hairstyles typically covered the ears. It came back in vogue until World War I, when clip ons took over.
6. The Kama Sutra suggests that one way to enhance sexual pleasure is through genital piercings. Some people today still subscribe to this theory.
7. Julius Caesar pierced his nipples, as nipple piercing was a sign of strength and he wanted to show solidarity with his men.
8. Aztecs and Mayans used lip and tongue piercings as a form of bloodletting for the Gods.
9. Today, about 14% of people have piercings somewhere other than their earlobes.
10. Some experts suggest not piercing infant’s ears, as the ear isn’t fully developed and what was once centered might end up in a different place.
11. The Nez Perce tribe was actually named after their nose piercings.