Updated: Aug 6, 2022
While some people may believe that body piercing is a trend first made popular by young people and the punk rock movement, it’s actually been a cultural practice and way of life for many world societies throughout the centuries. Body piercing is anything but new; in fact, it has an interesting history that goes back thousands of years and has touched nearly every continent on the planet.
Of all the types of body piercings, nostril and various ear piercings are often considered the most widespread, represented in many historical records and archaeological finds from all over the world. The oldest mummified remains to be documented were wearing earrings, leading experts to believe that ear piercing began around 5,000 years ago. Piercing of the nostril is also an ancient form of body art, with historians documenting it back to 1500 BC.
While ear and nose piercings were popular worldwide, tongue and lip piercings were popular moreso in American and African tribal cultures. Many different cultures incorporated nipple and genital piercings into their tribal practices, including Ancient Rome and Ancient India.
Modern Piercing Culture
In Western cultures, body piercing has gone through a number of highs and lows. After World War II, it saw a dramatic rise in popularity, and more and more people experimented with piercing sites other than the then-traditional earns. By the 1990s, many different types of body piercing had become a part of mainstream culture.
Examples of Cultural Piercing Practices
There are many interesting examples of historic and modern-day piercing culture from around the world, including:
In various Native American cultures, piercing has long been an important element of religious ceremonies, such as the Sun Dance ceremony. During the Crow Nation’s Sun Ceremony rites, piercings were performed as a method for inspiring powerful visions.
The Thaipusam Festival of Southern India is celebrated every year on the 10th day of February, honouring the heroic defeat of a demon named Soorapadman. During the celebrations, many attendants participate in body piercing to commemorate the religious event.
The Brahmin and Chhetri people of Nepal have a tradition of nose piercing that goes back to the 10th century, mandatory for all female tribe members and a sign of prosperity and innocence.
Why Do People Get Body Piercings?
When you consider how many cultures have a long history of body piercing, it makes sense that there are countless different reasons for body piercing. From expressing their individuality and commemorating life milestones to honouring spiritual and cultural beliefs, people make piercing a part of their lives for a wide variety of motives.
Whether you’re a dedicated piercing enthusiast or new to the idea of body piercing, it’s a unique way to express your personality and style. No matter which one of the countless piercing types you’re considering, you’ll be joining a long and storied history that includes many diverse groups.