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.

Pop Art – A Quick Guide to the Basics

Some of the most well-known artists of the Pop Art phenomenon, such as Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Rauschenberg, were born in the 1920′s which was a boom time in the USA with money to spare and jazz music starting to make it’s mark. But in 1929 the stock market crashed and the US entered a depression that lasted until the mid-1930′s. Perhaps the most famous of all pop artists, Andy Warhol, was born at the beginning of that depression.

So these artists grew up in a fast changing world that went from boom to bust to World War II in little over 10 years. By the time the war ended, they were still young and during the 1950s people again started to have some extra money available to spend on the endless stream of new products that were starting to appear.

And it was the design and advertising of these new products that the artists were commenting on, and influenced by, in a way that no previous generation of artists had been. They tried to use ordinary consumer items in their work to encourage people to view them differently. They also positioned common items in unusual ways to make people take notice of them.

Other common themes in Pop Art were comic books and the famous people of that era such as Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe, who will be forever associated with Warhol’s work. Warhol used screen printing techniques for his work and usually made several copies of the same image.

But what the artists sought to highlight was the way famous people were treated as objects in the same way as products were in advertising with all sense of their individuality removed. Although many pop artists were unwilling to give meaning to their work, and even those who posed questions with their art, left those same questions unanswered. Jasper Johns, famous for his series of paintings showing the American flag, famously questioned whether his own work was art or just a flag.

So what are the characteristics of Pop Art?

Just as the world in which we live is endlessly varied, so Pop Art used a variety of techniques but the common characteristics that define works as Pop Art are as follows:

Graphic Style: Clearly defined shapes and colours with hard edges such as the Lichtenstein comic book styles and David Hockney’s works.

Funny and Lighthearted: Rejecting the rather serious approach of earlier artists.

Everyday Products and Brands: including foodstuffs, cars and images from advertising and films.

Collage: and also different techniques within one work.

No Perspective: Flat two-dimensional works are very common.

Mechanical Techniques: silk-screen printing was used to create different versions of the same image.

Teardrop Piercing And How To Get One

Are you ready to get pierced again? Well, why not try the teardrop pierce? If you are feeling bold and you want something different when it comes to body piercing, you might want to try teardrop piercing. This piercing got its name because the pierced section is situated right atop the apples of your cheeks, just where teardrops usually fall. Those who get the teardrop pierce make use of the same earrings used for the belly or the brow.

Before getting this kind of piercing, here are some important things you need to take note of:

Visibility – Teardrop piercing is highly visible, unless you take off the earrings. It’s right on the ears and the hole stretches close to an inch so you can’t really use a regular earring to go through it.

Tolerance for pain – Most people say that this kind of piercing does not hurt. But in truth, it can. It actually depends on your own tolerance for pain and also the skin you have at that area. Remember that facial skin is softer and sometimes thinner than other parts of the body.

Sensitive skin – Teardrop piercing is done right on your skin. So make sure your face is not that sensitive because you will have to sanitize the piercing in two weeks time, very regularly. Make sure that you apply alcohol on the area without risking breakouts or facial allergies.

Aside from these things, you also need to take note of the person who will get the piercing done. Hygiene is very important. Make sure you are only getting pierced from a specialist who really uses clean tools. Here are some tips you can use to find the best piercing artist to do this work on you:

Ask recommendations from friends – Get in touch with your own network of friends. Ask them for their own recommendations. They might be able to give you the contact details of a good artist for the job.

Take a trip to the location – Before getting pierced, take time to actually go to the location and see how the artist will actually be doing the work on you. Does the place look clean? Do they use sanitized tools in there? Are you comfortable with the person who’s going to do the work on you? It’s also good to find a shop that’s actually near your home so that you won’t have to travel far with your fresh piercing on.

Talk with your artist – Tell your artist what you like and if you have pain issues, be upfront about it. Ask questions about teardrop piercing especially about cleaning it. They will be the best people to ask about it anyway. You can also ask if they could be the ones to provide the earring because some shops might only be willing to do the labor but will rely on your for the earrings.

Hand Piercings, Finger Piercings, and Hand Web Piercings

Hand Piercings, Finger Piercings, and Hand Web piercings are all very rare and rather extreme. In fact, if you are even considering getting one of these piercings, you are truly one of the brave. The pain varies, and in fact usually there is minimal pain involved with the piercing, but the aftercare of these particular piercings is only for the stringent at heart.

Your hands are two of the most active places on your body. They are constantly in motion, they are full of germs, and they are very sensitive (all those nerves running through our hands help the brain process pain, pleasure, and temperatures). A contemporary phenomenon is getting the surfaces on your hands pierced. I’m not against these piercings at all, but more than most piercings, it is important you understand the risks before committing to the piercing.

Hand piercings are all surface piercings, so they are susceptible to the usual suspects – migration and rejection. Your hands are chock full of muscles, tendons, and nerves, so the constant motion of your hands don’t exactly work in your favor. Generally, the less disturbed the piercing area, the quicker and more successful the healing. With hand piercings you will not have the luxury keeping a hand “protected”. It will be exposed to the elements, germs, daily stresses, and abuses straightaway. For this reason, only get a hand piercing if you are willing to do the following.

First of all, you must clean it religiously. Your piercer will recommend cleaning it somewhere around three times a day with a warm saline solution – don’t skip this step! The saline helps keep the piercing site clean and free of buildup. You will have special instructions concerning which soap you can use, what moisturizer you can use, what liquids or gels you can’t put on your hands (Neosporin is always a no-no), ad infinitum. Smoking is definitely discouraged with a hand piercing, for the cigarette smoke that will inevitably drift around it will irritate your new piercing and prolong the healing. You must also be sure to keep the piercing site clean, not just from germs, but from dirt, trash, food, etc. Remember, you have a very delicate piercing that is being assaulted from all sides, so be careful!

Your lifestyle may have to change as well during the healing period. Besides not smoking, you shouldn’t be wearing gloves (they can tear the piercings out) or engaging in any activity that may put your hands at risk. If your career heavily depends on using your hands, you may want to think about getting one of these piercings extra carefully. Your everyday life will be affected by this piercing for at least a year – which is the general healing time. If you’ve never had a body piercing before, this probably isn’t a good one to start out with!

Now that the risks are known, and you still want to go ahead, here is what you can expect! For starters, don’t get pierced with a ring or hoop. You are just begging for it to get ripped out! Your hands touch too many objects everyday and a ring jutting out will get snared on something and it will be gone before you know it. Your piercer and you will decide if surface bars or curved barbells are best for your piercing location (which is largely determined by the shape of your hands, exact location, and lifestyle). It is not uncommon to have to get refitted a couple months after the piercing, for the swelling should have gone down enough to where you might need new jewelry to lie closer to the skin.

For hand piercings, the location can be almost anywhere. Surface bars will almost always be used, and the pain might be a bit intense. Rejection risk is high since there is not a lot of skin or tissue to penetrate, but with care this can be a relatively long term piercing.

Finger piercings generally don’t hurt nearly as much as they look, but these too have a high risk of migration. Generally pierced at the base of the finger to look like a ring, surface bars or barbells are used. The finger will swell after piercing, and is highly prone to infection, but by following the right aftercare and being super careful, you just may be able to make this piercing last a good long while.

Hand web piercings might be the most popular of the hand piercings – the webbing between each finger (especially between thumb and forefinger) is very thin and not hard to push a barbell through. It is also prone to rejection and migration, and infection is a very real possibility. This piercing should not affect your mobility (none of these piercings should affect any of your body functions), but the hand webs are major points in acupuncture therapy, so if you talk to an acupuncturist they probably won’t be keen on you receiving a piercing this area. There’s no western scientific evidence that piercing your hand webs will hurt you, but if you follow eastern medicine and science, you may want to hold off on web piercings.

All in all, piercings on the hand are rather extreme. They require constant care, zealous protection, regular cleaning, and even then it’s not a guarantee that these piercings will last. Yet, if you want to push the boundaries and your lifestyle affords it, you can try to get a piercing on your hand. For many people who successfully have them, it’s their favorite piercing!