Classically, the term "ear piercing" has referred to piercings of the earlobe, but today there are different types of ear piercings you can get. But When did people first start piercing their ears? What reasons have different cultures had for engaging in the ancient practice of ear piercing? How is it that ear piercings have remained one of the most popular types of body piercings throughout time?We answer these questions and more in this History of Ear Piercings.
Ear piercing history dates back to about 5,000 years ago. This is backed by evidence of a mummy known as Ötzi the Iceman, a man who lived during the 4th millennium. It was discovered that his ears had piercings on them.
It is also proven, that the Egyptians of ancient times had ear piercings as evidenced by the holes found on the ear lobes of King Tutankhamen’s mummy – a pharaoh of ancient Egypt. They also found earrings in his tomb.
Ear piercing has cultural and spiritual significance. In some primitive societies, when a child approaches puberty, their ears are pierced in celebration. Spiritually, some communities in the past believed that evil spirits possessed humans through the ears, so the earlobes were pierced for them to be able to leave when they enter while some believed that metals kept the evil spirits away, so they wore earrings.
In Africa, in a clan known as Samburu, their fighters are made to pierce their ears and put on earplugs made of ivory to signify that they have become men and are brave. The father and mother of a child in Borneo would each pierce an earlobe of their child, to show that the child depends on them.
Also, the Borneo people wore barbells on their ears. The Dayak of Borneo was known to wear them, many years ago. In the 70s, the man who founded the first body piercing shop in the United States, Jim Ward, was the one who made barbells popular.
Around the 16th century, in Europe, men who worked in the King’s court were known to pierce their ears. Sailors also usually wore an earring on one ear to signify that they have sailed far and wide. They also wore them in case they died at sea, so whoever found them would sell the earring and give them a decent burial with the proceeds.
However, towards the 18th century, clip-on earrings started replacing earrings that required piercing. Piercings were left to the lowly of birth, till the 50s, after the war. It was as if people, women especially, wanted to make up for looking disheveled during the war.
Ear piercings became fashionable once again. But there were no piercing shops like can be found everywhere . What young women did was to get their lobes numb using ice block cubes, before piercing. As time went on, it became necessary to get ear piercings in hospitals to avoid infection.
Ear piercing shops began gaining popularity around the 80s, and by the 90s, fewer people had reservations about getting their ears pierced. Today almost every country have people who wear earrings, mostly for adornment purposes.
Piercing of the ear has evolved so much so that different parts of the ear can be pierced. Types of piercing include the standard piercing which is done on the earlobe, daith piercing, conch piercing, helix piercing,tragus piercing, industrial piercing;(usually done on both parts of the top of the ears, for barbells to be inserted, ) and rook piercing. An individual can have more than twenty different piercings on the ear because almost every part of the ear can be pierced.