A Rich History of Piercings

14 July 2023

Introduced in the late 1500s, piercings have become an increasingly popular fashion trend, with many upper-class men wearing gold, stone, or pearl earrings. Based on a 2008 survey in England, it is estimated 10% of people aged 16 and over have at least one body piercing. But why? In this blog, we will be exploring when the piercing became so popular and why?

Origins of Piercings

Did you know, ancient African civilization’s customs involved piercing lips and tongues? Skeletons up to 12,000 years old have been found with facial piercings!

Today, we get piercings for fashion and as a personal choice, however, in ancient times, piercings were got for spiritual and religious reasons. Ancient tribes believed that piercings offered protection from demons and spirits as metal repelled such spirits.

In particular, ear piercings have considerable written and archeological evidence. For example, Ötzi the Iceman was found preserved for 5300 years in a glacier in Italy. The mummy had an ear piercing which was around 7 – 11mm in diameter. A religious example of ear piercings is stated in Genesis 35:4 when Jacob buries the earrings worn by members of his household along with their idols.

Piercings in Europe

In Europe, earrings for women fell from fashion between the 4th and 16th centuries, as clothing and hairstyles tended to obscure their ears. However, they slowly returned to popularity in Italy, England, Spain, and France, even spreading to North America. Earrings remained popular until after World War One when they fell out of favour and the newer ‘clip-on’ earring became fashionable.

Dating back to the European Middle Ages, a superstitious belief that piercing one ear might improve long-distance vision led to the practice becoming common between sailors and explorers. Sailors also pierced their ears in the belief that their earrings could pay for a Christian burial if their bodies washed up on shore.

Piercings All Over The World

Nose piercings also have a long history dating back to c. 1500 BCE when the Vedas refer to Lakshmi’s nose piercings. More modern practices in India are believed to have spread from the Middle Eastern nomadic tries by route of the Mughal emperors in the 16th century. Even now, it is customary for Hindu women of childbearing age to wear a nose stud, typically in the left nostril.

Lip piercings were historically found in certain tribal cultures in Africa and the Americas. Pierced adornments of the lip were sported by the Tlingit, an indigenous group of people in the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America, as well as people of Papua New Guinea and the Amazon basin.

In conclusion, piercings have fluctuated in popularity over the ages, they went from being worn by religious figures, to superstitious sailors, and now ordinary people. They’ve been used as protection against evil spirits, to being a fashion statement. Whatever you may believe about piercings, it is undeniable that they have a rich history, spanning various cultures, communities, and countries. One thing is for sure, they aren’t going anywhere!

If you enjoyed this blog, check out our other blogs too!

This blog was kindly written by Connor Webb while he has been doing work experience with us this week!

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