The History of Piercings

For centuries and centuries humans have been trying to modify their bodies, from ancient tribal tattoos to foot binding to belly button piercings. Now days it seems more of a trend that parents love to scold their children for, elderly people like to scowl at and employers generally frown upon. But unknown to many the origins had deeper, more profound symbolism than the majority of the pierced population’s attitude of “it’ll look cool”.

So where did it all really come from, I hear you cry… Well calm down, pull up a chair and I’ll tell you!


  • Earlobe piercings were the first discovered body adornment, as it reaches as far back as 5,300 years. The mummified remains of a body known as Ötzi, the Iceman were found in an Austrian Glacier and had pierced ears that had been stretched out to a 7-11mm diameter.
  • Primitive tribes pierced ears as a way to scare off demons as they believed they entered the body through the ears and that metal through the lobes would repel them.
  • In western society during the Elizabethan era it was mainly men that wore ear piercings than women. It was deemed completely acceptable for men to wear expensive earrings as they symbolised luxury and wealth.


  • Roman centurions were some of the first to get their nipples pierced as a sign of their dedication to the Roman Empire. It was also seen as a symbol of strength and unity as the majority of the army, including Julius Caesar, had them pierced.
  • The “Bosom Ring” came into fashion in the 1890s and was sold in pricey Parisian jewellery shops. These rings were put through nipple piercings, with both breasts being linked by a delicate chain. This was said to enhance the nipples and make them look like they were constantly aroused. Lovely!


  • The first recorded nose piercing was 4000 years ago in the Middle East, and is mentioned in the Bible where Isaac gives his wife Rebekah a “Shanf” with translates as ‘nose ring’. Nose piercings are also still common in Middle Eastern Bedouin tribes and the Nomad tribes of Africa.
  • Nose piercing traditions were brought over from the Middle East to India in the 16th century, where the women have their nose pierced on the left side (which is sometimes joined by a chain to the ear lobe) as it is said to make the pains of childbirth and periods easier to bear.


  • Pierced lips were very common throughout the world, although only two tribes pierced their lips with rings. The tribes are the Dogon and Nuba tribes, with the Dogon tribe doing it as a symbolic religious practice involving ancestral spirits. All other tribes used/use labrets made of wood, clay, bone, crystal or other materials – with some that stretch the piercing out with larger labrets.
  • The Aztecs and Maya also used lip labrets that were fashioned into religious or spiritual figurines made of gems or jade and gold to make them look more attractive or sexual. Also, people in central and south America used lip labrets to look more attractive, with the pierced holes being stretched out with wooden plates to enhance the lips – similar to the use of modern day collagen.

We all know they are other piercings such as septum and genital, but after reading up on what the origins were I’d rather not mention it for your own sanity!!


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