The History of Body Piercings – Ancient and Fascinating Around the World

Body piercings have seen a resurgence of interest in the last ten to twenty years and are becoming more and more a part of the mainstream Western culture. Take a look at any fashion or entertainment magazine and you’ll see plenty of well-known celebrities with body piercings like navel rings or a labret. You might be surprised to find out that piercing is actually an ancient form of expression that most cultures have practiced at some time or other for thousands of years. Egyptian body piercings reflected status and love of beauty The earliest known mummified remains of a human that was pierced is over 5,000 years old. This worthy gentleman had his ears pierced with larger-gauge plugs in his ears, so plugs may be one of the oldest forms of body modification there is! We also know that the Egyptians loved to adorn themselves elaborately, and even restricted certain types of body piercings to the royal family. In fact, only pharaoh himself could have his navel pierced. Any one else who tried to get a belly button ring could be executed. (Tell that to Britney Spears!) Almost every well-to-do Egyptian wore earrings, though, to display their wealth and accent their beauty. Elaborate enameled and gold earrings frequently portrayed items in nature such as lotus blossoms. Body piercings are also mentioned in the Bible. In the Old Testament it’s obvious that body jewelry is considered a mark of beauty and wealth, especially for Bedouin and nomadic tribes. In many cases, body jewelry was given as a bridal gift or as part of a dowry. It is clear that piercing was a sign of status and attractiveness in Biblical times. Romans were practical piercers Romans were very practical people, and for them piercing almost always served a purpose. Roman centurions pierced their nipples not because they liked the way it looked, but to signify their strength and virility. It was a badge of honor that demonstrated the centurion’s dedication to the Roman Empire. As a symbol, it was important and served a specific function, unifying and bonding the army. Even Julius Caesar pierced his nipples to show his strength and his identification with his men. Genital piercing through the head of the penis was performed on gladiators, who were almost always slaves, for two reasons. A ring through the head of the penis could be used to tie the organ back to the testicles with a length of leather. In gladiatorial combat, this prevented serious injury. With a large enough ring or bar, it also prevented the slave from having sex without the owner’s consent. Since the gladiator was “property,” a stud fee could be charged to another slave owner for the highly prized opportunity to raise the next generation of great fighter. Making love or war, piercing makes it better Going across the ocean at around the same time, the Aztecs, Maya and some American Indians practiced tongue piercing as part of their religious rituals. It was thought to bring them closer to their gods and was a type of ritual blood-letting. The Aztec and Maya were warrior tribes, and also practiced septum piercing in order to appear fiercer to their enemies. Nothing looks quite as frightening as an opponent sporting a huge boar tusk thrust through his nose!

This practice was also common among tribes in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Some of the materials commonly used were bone, tusks and feathers. Hundreds of years later, French fur trappers in Washington State discovered American Indian tribes who wore bones through their septum and called them the Nez Perce, meaning “Pierced Noses” in French. It’s interesting that civilizations separated by thousands of miles and even centuries often developed a love for the same kind of body piercings to enhance certain features, isn’t it?

In Central and South America, lip labrets were popular for purely aesthetic reasons – women with pierced lips were considered more attractive. In fact, the holes were often stretched to incredible size as progressively larger wooden plates were inserted to emphasize the lips as much as possible. (Kind of like collagen today). The Aztecs and Maya also sported lip labrets of gold and jade, many of them elaborately carved into mythical or religious figures or sporting gemstones. These were seen as highly attractive and to enhance sexuality. As the world moved into the dark ages, interest in piercing died down somewhat and the medieval church began to condemn it as sinful. For a few hundred years, Western civilization abandoned the practice. As the Renaissance went into full swing, however, interest in piercing began to pick up again. A new era and a new interest in body piercings Sailors became convinced that piercing one ear would improve their long-distance site, and so the site of a sailor with a gold or brass ring became common. Word also spread that should a sailor be washed ashore after a shipwreck, the finder should keep the gold ring in exchange for providing a proper Christian burial. Sailors were both religious and superstitious, so they generally spent a lot for a large gold earring to hedge their bets. Men became much more fashion-conscious during the Renaissance and Elizabethan eras, and almost any male member of the nobility would have at least one earring, if not more. Large pearl drops and enormous diamond studs were a great way to advertise your wealth and standing in the community. It could also designate royal favor if your earring was a gift from a member of the royal family. Women, not wanting to be outshone by the men in all their finery, began to wear plunging necklines, with the Queen of Bavaria introducing the most outrageous, which consisted of not much at all above the waist. In order to adorn themselves, women began piercing their nipples to show off their jewelry. Soon they began wearing chains and even strands of pearls draped between the two.

Men and women both discovered that these nipple piercings were also delightful playthings in bed, adding sensitivity to the breasts and giving the men both visual and tactile stimulation. Men began getting pierced purely for pleasure as well. While not entirely mainstream, piercing of the nipples and, occasionally, the genitals, continued to hold interest for members of the upper crust of society in Europe on and off for the next few hundred years. The next resurgence of interest was, surprisingly, during the Victorian age, which is usually seen as very repressed. Prince Albert, future husband of Queen Victoria, is said to have gotten the penis piercing that is named after him in order wear the tight-fitting trousers so popular at the time. The ring could then be attached to a hook on the inside of one pant leg, tucked safely away between the legs for a neat, trim look. Although we have no record of Victoria’s response to the piercing itself, there is ample evidence she was wildly in love with her husband and almost never left his side after their marriage! Soon, Victorian men were getting Prince Albert’s, frenums and a variety of other piercings purely for the pleasurable sexual effects, and women were doing the same. By the 1890′s, it was almost expected that a woman would have her nipples pierced. In fact, some doctors at the time suggested it improved conditions for breastfeeding, although not all agreed. It was an interesting double standard — plenty of people were doing it, but no one was talking about it. Modern-day body piercings In the last hundred years or so, body piercings in the Western world have mostly been limited to the ears, a standard hold-over from the fact that both men and women wore earrings during Elizabethan times. The Puritan movement did away with men wearing earrings, however, and it didn’t really regain popularity until recently. Nose rings found new interest when young people (they were called hippies then) from the U.S. began traveling in India extensively looking for enlightenment in the 1960′s. They noticed the nostril rings that most women had been wearing there since the sixteenth century. In India, this was a form of traditional, accepted adornment and was often linked to an earring by a chain. For rebellious teens from America, it was a great form of rebellion. After bringing nose piercings back to the U.S., the interest in body piercings of all kinds quickly caught on during the 1980′s and 1990′s. Celebrities, sports stars and singers all began sporting a variety of piercings. Soon, high school students and even stay-at-home moms were flashing new body piercings. And the rest, as they say, is history! This article on the “History of Body Piercings” reprinted with permission.
Copyright 2004 Evaluseek Publishing.

Conch Piercings

Conch Piercings are located within the hollow space of your ear; it is called a conch piercing because of the resemblance it has to the conch shell. Literally pierced right through the center of your ear, this is not a very popular piercing (as far as numbers go), but people who have conch piercings (and other bod mod enthusiasts) absolutely love them!

Conch Piercings go through the thick cartilage located directly in the middle of your ear. Because there is a copious amount of surrounding tissue, migration or rejection risks are nonexistent. If you are looking to begin your first foray into body piercing (outside of traditional ear lobes), this is a great piercing to start with!

Experienced and reputable piercers will not have difficulty in piercing your conch. Unlike some other ear or body piercings, there aren’t any strange angles, bends, or specific equipment that must be used. The piercing is a straight shot using a simple, basic, sterile piercing needle. The Conch is one of the easiest places to get pierced.

Once you and your piercer agree that a Conch is right for you, your piercer will recommend the best jewelry – it usually is a captive bead ring for the initial piercing. And just to forewarn you, the gauge (that is, the thickness) of the jewelry might appear to be rather large. Don’t be alarmed! These piercings call for jewelry of a larger girth, and it won’t hurt anymore than if it was pierced with a smaller gauge. Once your piercing has healed (it will take about a year to be fully and completely healed) you can replace it with a myriad of affordable and fun jewelry. The first three to six months are very crucial in the healing process, so take good care of your ear!

Your piercer will mark your ear with a marker to denote where they think it will look best on you; once you have confirmed or rearranged the position, your piercing will happen. Clamps are usually used (all they do is secure the area from moving), and a straight piercing needle will push through on your exhale. It is a very fast procedure, and your jewelry will slide in your new hole. Once your piercer has finished securing the piercing, your ear might feel a little hot and your heart may be thumping rapidly, but that is just the adrenaline and endorphin kicking in. Enjoy it while it lasts – many people live for that thrilling feeling! The actual pain ranges from person to person, but most don’t feel any pain. Like so many piercings, this one looks more painful than it actually is, so don’t be nervous!

You can get more than one piercing in your Conch, and then it’s called a Conch Orbital. Basically, an Orbital is two separate piercings joined together by one piece of jewelry (please see my orbital article for more information). You can also get the Conches in both ears pierced but I would suggest staggering these two piercings so as to ease the healing process. For example, for about 3 months after your piercings, you really shouldn’t sleep on the ear with a pierced Conch; getting both Conches pierced simultaneously may therefore interfere with your sleeping patterns and may lead to prolong healing in both ears. Discuss with your piercer if a conch orbital is right for you – if you think you may want one in the future, alert your piercer so that they can give you a piercing in the right location.

The aftercare for the Conch is very easy – not only is this an easy piercing to get, it’s easy to take care of, and it’s easy to find jewelry for it! Soaking your ear in warm salt water (properly called a saline solution) is one of the best ways to assist your new piercing. The next best thing to do is NOT TOUCH your new piercing! It’s very hard to do – it’s a new addition to your body so you will doubtless want to play with it – but don’t touch it! Human hands are covered in germs and bacteria and fidgeting with your new vulnerable piercing can lead to infection. Only touch it when you are cleaning it, and be sure your hands are clean first! Other simple tips to avoid an infection include not putting your cell phone on that ear, don’t sleep on it, don’t use headphones that go into your ear canal, and try to keep long hair away from it (it can wrap around the back) during the healing time (once it’s healed, no big deal if your hair touches it).

Taking care of your Conch is very easy, all it takes is routine cleaning, abstaining from touching it, and common sense! Your piercer will give you a complete rundown, so pay attention. Should any problems arise, return to your piercer and they should be able to provide you with more advice or solutions. Enjoy your conch, and get ready to be the envy of many!

History of Ear Gauging in Tribal Civilizations

A study of the history of ear gauging indicates the practice to be as old as recorded human history. For males, this form of ear piercing has been a symbol of status, while for women, in addition to being used as means of bodily decoration, it has also been employed to signify the attainment of womanhood.

Ear gauging, which is also referred to as ear stretching, is the stretching of ear lobe piercings to larger diameters than that of the original piercing. It is a form of body enhancement or beautification that many young western people adopt to look ‘different’ from the usual crowd. However, this is not a modern form of body piercing, since it has been around for as long as archaeological records exist.

In many cases, ear gauging has been used historically to indicate the standing of members of a specific tribe, and in many respects this is still the situation today. Stretched piercings have been, and still are, a reflection on the individual’s sexual capability and also their superiority over other males in the tribe. The larger the stretching, the more important the individual.

Otzi the Iceman is a prime example of mummies known to have stretched ears. This is the earliest known example of ear gauging, Otzi having 7-11 mm ear piercings during 3300 BC. It has been suggested that the stretching of the ears noted in depictions of Siddhartha Gautama, better known as Buddha, may have been caused by the weight of the gold jewelry he wore, but this is mere supposition.

It is supported, however, by the fact that the Masai tribe of Kenya and the Lahu and Karen-Paduang people of Thailand use this ‘gravity’ technique to stretch their piercings. Let us have a look at the ear gauging practices used today by various cultures.

A. Mursi Tribal Women

The Mursi is an Ethiopian tribe where the women are obliged to wear plates in their gauged ears and on their bottom lip. About a year prior to her marriage, or at about 15 years of age, a Mursi girl’s lip will be pierced by her mother and a wooden peg pushed through the incision.

Once healed, the peg is changed for a larger diameter one. Eventually, the peg is replaced by a plate of clay or wood, and this plate is successively changed for larger diameter ones until the required diameter is attained – from around 8 – 22 cm in diameter (3 – 9 inches). Once these plates have been secured, she receives a higher degree of respect than those without them, and is known as a ‘Bhansanai’.

These lip and ear plates need not be worn permanently, but are an expected adornment during special occasions such as during weddings and other celebrations, and when they serve food to men. Today, young women can generally make their own decision as to whether or not they follow this tradition.

B. The Masai People of Kenya

The practice of ear gauging has been common among Masai men and women for thousands of years. In recent years, however, most young men have not been following this custom, although you will still find many Masai women wearing ear decorations made from stones, cross-cut elephant tusks, wood and animal bones.

The original piercing is carried out using a thorn, sharpened twig or a sharp knife point. Once healed, ear gauging is then carried out by wearing increasingly heavy jewellery that pulls the lobe down and stretches the piercing. This is the traditional way of gauging ears in the more primitive cultures, although many Masai today will use proper ear gauging techniques, such as their own versions of insertion tapers or taper spikes. Beads are a common form of ornamentation, although plugs made from bone, tusks and wood are also used.

C. The African Fulani Tribe

Fulani women from Nigeria and Central Africa tend to use smaller diameter ear gauges, and decorate them using large gold domes or hoops carrying earrings. A Fulani child will have her ears pierced at around 3 years old, although they may not be stretched until she is older. The gauges used by Fulani women are relatively small compared to the Masai and Mursi, although the jewellery can be larger.

D. Asian Hill Tribes

Of the various hill tribes, the only two known to practice ear gauging are the Lahu from Thailand, and the Karen-Padaung (Longnecks) from Myanmar (Burma) and also the Phrae province in Thailand. That latter tribe are best known for their neck rings, offering the appearance of long necks, but both cultures believe the ear to be sacred and the more jewellery they can wear on the better. By gauging their ears, they are able to wear the maximum amount of jewellery they believe possible.

E. Mexican and Central American Civilizations

In Mayan and Aztec society, ear gauging was regarded as desirable for males. There are many Mayan representations of men with flares and ear plugs (ear spools) in gauged ears, and the material used was indicative of the social standing of the wearer. Jade ear plugs were worn by the higher classes, while the rest would use bone, stone, wood and other materials. In central Mexico, the craftsmanship of the Aztecs is evident in the ear gauging plugs and ornaments of gold and silver, though the lower classes would adorn their stretches earlobes with shells, copper and wood among many other imaginative materials.

Ear gauging has been carried out worldwide, and among other notable areas involved in this practice are Japan, where the Ainu used ear jewellery made from shells, bone and a ball and ring known as Ninkari. There are many other cultures worldwide where ear gauging was a part of their life, and even today many people regard ear stretching as a fashion statement and a way of expressing their own personality and individuality.

The Origin, Characteristics and Uses of Roman Lettering

The Roman lettering style was developed from an old inscription found at the foot of a column built by Emperor Trojan in Rome in 113 B.C. A Frenchman called Nicholas Jenson first created the Roman lettering style in the fifteenth century precisely in 1470. It is also referred to as ‘Classical Roman lettering’ or ‘Quadrata’. The Roman alphabet took at least seven centuries to develop and did not contain the letters, J, U, and W.

Roman letters have ornamental or finishing strokes called serifs at both the top and bottom parts of the letters. These serifs give the vertical strokes of the letters stability and also make the letters graceful. The serif may be angular, thin, rounded or rectangular in their representations. This accounts for the varieties of serifs such as beaked serif, hairline serif, bracketed serif, sheared serif and slab serif.

There are other features that distinct this style of lettering from other forms of lettering. The letters have varying strokes of thick and thin. The vertical strokes are generally thick while the horizontal strokes are usually thin. Also, the letters have different proportions or sizes due to the transcending of thick and thin strokes. They are extremely beautiful and attractive because of the diversity in their stroke formation. Variety, which is a feature that breaks monotony or one format, is highly acclaimed with elegance by many people.

In addition, the letters stand erect or upright. This formal outlook of this lettering style makes it very appropriate to be used for official documents. This explains why mot documents for such purposes are usually restricted to be created in this lettering style.

Furthermore, the letters are carefully drawn or constructed. Due to the close attention paid to proportion and space, measuring devices are used by amateur designers who create these letters manually. Measuring tools on design software help in creating accurate representations of letters on personal computers.

This lettering is widely used for various purposes. It is used in writing the reading materials in books, newspapers, and magazines due to its excellent trait of readability. Also, they are used in designing packages for products and greeting cards for wishing people success in examinations, speedy recovery in ill health situations and many others. Again, they are used in writing the text on posters, banners, and other visual communication tools. Moreover, messages on citations are written in Roman lettering style. Names of participants in workshops, seminars, and other educational programmes are written in roman lettering styles on certificates.

It is one of the elegant lettering styles that ensure the designing of products in visual communication. Its rudiments must be carefully mastered and utilised by artists to achieve the maximum benefits.