A History of Piercings – Part II

A History of Piercings – Part II

In our last post on the theme, we traced piercing back to at least 12.000 years ago. Ancient civilisations from Africa to Asia all used body modifications to determine social status or to function as protection from evil spirits and demons. Ancient Romans wore studs in their ears. Some males of the Empire even had their genitals pierced as it was believed to stop slaves from procreating, athletes from losing valuable testosterone, and to keep young singers’ voices high-pitched for longer. 

William ShakespeareHowever, then along came Christianity. The church considered body modifications and piercings to be pagan and insurgent against the Christo-Judean idea that the human body was made in God’s own image and should therefore not be altered in any way. In Central and South America, indigenous people practiced the art of piercings before the arrival of the Spanish, which also came along with misguided morals and proceeded to spread their ideas through violence and cultural oppression. 

Hoops for status or sailors

The view of the church contributed to the art of piercing in the West becoming largely an underground practice. For a long time, only people who were on the outskirts of society would be seen wearing jewellery through their skin. However, during the Elizabethan age in Britain, noble men began piercing their ears to show off their wealth. 

On the famous portrait of William Shakespeare painted by Chando, a simple gold hoop thread through the playwright’s ear lobe is clearly visible. Meanwhile, sailors would wear gold hoops knowing that it could pay for their funeral, should their body be found at sea. 

But how exactly did ear piercings become fashionable in the modern age? Well, while the period might be famous for being generally conservative, it was Queen Victoria who brought the practice to Britain in earnest during her reign. For her coronation, she wanted to wear a pair of very rarely used earrings from the crown jewels. As such, she had her ears pierced for the occasion, and sparked something of a trend. 

traditional nose piercings

Nose piercings

Meanwhile, nose piercings are mentioned in the Old Testament and Genesis. When Abraham finds a wife for his son Isaac he gives her a golden nose ring. It is still a practice among Bedouin families in North Africa and the Middle East for the groom to offer a nose ring to the bride when they get married. The bigger the ring, the wealthier the family. 

In turn, some claim that nose piercings were brought to India in the 16th century by the Moghul emperors. However, there are also ancient sacred texts in the Ayurvedic tradition that state that nostril piercings help with pain from menstrual cramps, as well as easing childbirth.

Today, many Indian women have their noses pierced at an early age, around 12 years old. Well known female deities of the Hindu tradition, like Kali and Parvati, have pierced noses, and women in South Asia often wear elaborate pieces of jewelry strung between their nostrils and ears for weddings and celebrations. 


© 2024 All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy