Piercings may have only become widely popular in mainstream culture in recent years, but the practice of body piercing is far from new. Piercing dates back to Bible times and earlier. Read on to find out when specific types of piercings were first recorded and how their popularity has evolved in years since.

Nose piercing history

The nose is the face's most prominent feature; as Leonardo Da Vinci said, it sets the character for the whole face. It's no surprise then that a nose piercing can positively accentuate one's face, making nostril piercings in particular a very attractive type of piercing on many people.
The history of nose piercing dates back to ancient times; it was first recorded in the Middle East aproximately 4,000 years ago. It's also mentioned in The Bible in Genesis 24:22, where it's recorded that Abraham asked his oldest servant to find a wife for his son, Isaac. The servant found Rebekah, and one of the gifts he gave her was a "golden earring". The original Hebrew word used was Shanf, which translates to "nose ring".
The practice of nose piercing is still followed among the nomadic Berber and Beja tribes of Africa and the Bedouins of the Middle East. The size of the ring gifted denotes a family's wealth. It's given by a husband to his wife when they marry, and it represents financial security for her in the event that she and her husband are divorced.
In the 16th century, nose piercing was bought to India from the Middle East by the Moghul emperors. In India, a stud (called a "Phul") or a ring (i.e. "Nath") is usually worn in the left nostril, although both nostrils are pierced in some areas. The reason the left nostril is more commonly pierced is due to that spot being associated with female reproductive organs in Ayuvedra (i.e. Indian medicine); the piercing is supposed to make childbirth easier and lessen period pain. An Indian woman's nose piercing is sometimes joined to her ear by a chain.
In the west, nose piercing first appeared among the hippies who had traveled to India in the Late 1960s. In the 1970s, the practice of nose piercing was adopted by the Punk movement as a symbol of rebellion against conservative values. Conservative people--particularly parents and employers--still don't react well to it, so consider any reactions that could negatively affect you or your career carefully before having your nose pierced.
Nowadays, nose piercing is gradually becoming more socially acceptable. Many celebrities have their noses pierced--for instance, Madonna, Lenny Kravitz, Sinead O'Connor, and Slash from Guns & Roses. More and more, you'll see everyday people sporting little gem-topped nostril studs and fine hoops, too, including professionals in a variety of settings ranging from retail outlets to doctor's offices.

Tongue piercing history

Tongue piercing was practiced in a ritual form by the ancient Aztecs, the Maya of Central America, and the Haida, Kwakiutul, and Tlinglit tribes of the American Northwest. The tongue was pierced to draw blood to propitiate the gods and to create an altered state of consciousness so that the priest or shaman could communicate with the gods.
Tongue piercing is now one of the most popular piercings people get. It's shocking, provocative and fantastic for oral sex (for both sexes), but at the same time, no one need know you have it. Janet Jackson, Keith Flint from Prodigy, Mel B. from the Spice Girls, and Malcolm Jamahl Warner from the Cosby show all sport pierced tongues.

Ear piercing history

It's commonly thought that in the history of body piercings, earlobe piercings were probably one of the first man attempted due to the ease with which earlobes can be pierced. What evidence is there to support that theory? In 1991, the oldest mummified body in the world was found frozen in an Austrian Glacier; tests showed the body to be over 5,000 years old. The body had pierced ears, and the holes had been enlarged to 7-11mm diameter.
Ears were probably first pierced for magical purposes. Many primitive tribes believe that demons can enter the body through the ear; ear piercing could prevent that from happening, because demons and spirits are supposed to be repelled by metal. Sailors used to have an ear pierced due to the superstitious belief that doing so would improve their eyesight, keeping them safer at sea. Additionally, if a sailor's body washed up on shore somewhere, a single earring could pay for a Christian burial. To this day, ear piercing is done as a puberty ritual in many societies. In Borneo, a mother and father each pierce one of their child's ears to symbolize the child's dependence on his or her parents. Even in the US, it isn't uncommon for parents to pierce their little girls' earlobes.
Ear piercing isn't just for girls; it's an almost universal practice for men and women alike. It's only in western society that it has been deemed effeminate, although that prejudice has diminished in recent years, and rightly so. At various times in history, great men wore elaborate earrings. For instance, during the Elizabethan era, many famous men such as Shakespeare, Sir Walter Raleigh and Francis Drake wore gold rings in their ears. The practice for men of status to wear earrings goes back even further than that. "As the Roman Republic grew more effeminate with wealth and luxury, earrings were more popular among men than women; no less a he-man than Julius Caesar brought back to repute and fashion the use of rings in the ears of men."

Lip piercing history

Piercing lips so objects can be inserted in them is widely practiced throughout the world, although lip piercing history is richest in tribal cultures. Only two tribes pierce the lips with a ring: the Dogon tribe of Mali and the Nuba of Ethiopia. Among the Dogon, lip piercing has religious significance; they believe the world was created by their ancestor spirit "Noomi" weaving thread through her teeth, but instead of thread, out came speech. All the other lip piercing that is practiced around the world is done with labrets, which can be made from a pin of wood, ivory, metal, or even quartz crystals. Among the tribes of Central Africa and South America, the labret piercing is stretched to extremely large proportions, and large wooden or clay plates are inserted in place of labret pins over time.
Among the ancient Aztecs and Maya, labret piercing (i.e. "Tentetl" to the Aztecs) was reserved for male members of the higher castes, who wore beautiful labrets fashioned from pure gold to look like serpents, golden labrets with stones inset in them, and labret jewelry made of jade or obsidian. The Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest and the Inuit peoples of northern Canada and Alaska wore labrets fashioned from walrus ivory, abalone shell, bone, obsidian, and wood.
The Makololo tribe of Malawi wear lip plates called Pelele in the upper lip. The African explorer Dr. Livingstone asked a chief the reason for this; in surprise, the chief answered "For beauty! They are the only beautiful things women have. Men have beards, women have none. What kind of person would she be without Pelele? She would not be a woman at all."
"The plug of wood in the lips, which became little by little a disk, and then a real plaque, was in some manner a sign of possession of the husband of the Djinja woman. It is the man who is to marry her, and very often him alone who operates, transfixing the lips of the young girl with a blade of straw forms the first sign of the deformation to which she will be subject as an adult. It is in sum, a betrothal rite."

Navel piercing history

Navel piercing is a modern invention and has never been recorded in primitive cultures. However, the navel has long been recognized as an erogenous zone, because of the difference between men's and women's stomachs. Women's stomachs differ from men's in that they are more rounded in the lower part, are longer than men's, have a greater distance between the navel and genitals, and are more deeply recessed than men's. These features are often exaggerated by artists to make women appear more feminine in paintings.
The invention of the Bikini in 1953 caused a big stir because the navel was seen as being sexually provocative due to its similarity to the female genitals. The Bikini revolutionized women's lives. Along with the liberation of their clothes, their lives in general became more liberated. The process was completed when Madonna started the craze for showing off the midriff in the 1980s. The ability to flaunt their sexuality in public gave women more power and confidence in themselves.
In September 1994, Suzy Menkes of the New York Times said, "It is easy to pinpoint the moment when body piercing went mainstream. Christy Turlington came out at a London Fashion show, and in the middle of her navel was a ring! The next day Naomi Campbell showed the world that anything Christy could do, so could she. A gold ring with a small pearl pierced her navel. And then at Isaac Mizrahi's show the two came out together, navels bared and be-ringed: body piercing as a Supermodel totem."
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