Body piercing began with the first tribes and clans, the oldest human races - from the jungle tribes in South America, Africa and Indonesia.

Body piercing is one of the oldest and most interesting forms of adornment and/or body modification, yet the reasons for piercing the body are as diverse as the cultures they come from.

Body piercing usually refers to the piercing of a part of the human body for the purpose of wearing jewelry in the opening created. Body piercing is a form of body modification. The word "piercing" can refer to the act or practice of body piercing, or to a specific pierced opening in the body. Some people practice piercing for religious or other cultural reasons, while many individuals, particularly in the modern West, choose to be pierced for spiritual, ornamental, or sexual reasons.


Evidence suggests that body piercing (including ear piercing) has been practiced by peoples all over the world from ancient times. Mummified bodies with piercings have been discovered, including the oldest mummified body discovered to date, that of Otzi the Iceman, which was found in an Austrian glacier. This mummy had an ear piercing 7-11 mm in diameter.

Nose piercing and ear piercing are mentioned in the Bible. In Genesis 24:22, Abraham's servant gave a nose ring and bracelets to Rebekah, wife of his son Isaac. In Exodus 32, Aaron makes the golden calf from melted earrings. Deuteronomy 15:12-17 dictates ear piercing as a mark of slavery.

Nose piercing was practiced among the nomadic Berber and Beja tribes of Africa, and the Bedouins of the Middle East, the size of the ring denotes the wealth of the family. It is given by the husband to his wife at the marriage, and is her security if she is divorced.

Nose piercing has been common in India since the 16th century. Nose piercing was bought to India in the 16th Century from the Middle East by the Moghul emperors. In India a stud (Phul) or a ring (Nath) is usually worn in the left nostril, It is sometimes joined to the ear by a chain, and in some places both nostrils are pierced. The left side is the most common to be pierced in India, because that is the spot associated in Ayuvedra (Indian medicine) with the female reproductive organs, the piercing is supposed to make childbirth easier and lessen period pain. Some women in India pierce their noses to induce a state of submissiveness. They claim this happens by proper placement in a marma or acupuncture point.

Tongue piercing was popular in Mesoamerica with the elite of Aztec and Maya civilizations, though it was carried out as part of a blood ritual and such piercings were not intended to be permanent. Ancient Mesoamericans wore jewelry in their ears, noses, and lower lips, and such decorations continue to be popular amongst indigenous peoples in these regions.

Tongue piercing was always practiced by the Haida, Kwakiutul, and Tlinglit tribes of the American Northwest. The tongue was pierced to draw blood to propitiate the gods, and to create an altered state of consciousness so that the priest or shaman could communicate with the gods.

The Pharahos of Egypt also practiced body piercing.

It has been practiced for as long as five thousand years. It has, in the beginning, as it is now, been used as a personal expression, a religious ritual, an official, or royal distinction, or more often recently, a trend in fashion.

Approximately 1440 BC. The book of Exodus 21: 5-6 describes how Hebrew servants that pledged allegiance to their master would have their ear held to a door post and pierced with an awl. This would indicate identification with a particular family.

The philosophers of Greece and the soldiers of Rome. The Centurions from ancient Rome expressed their strength and virility by displaying pierced - jeweled nipples.

All the way up to the middle classes, and the aristocracy of the 18th and 19th century. It was all but forgotten in Europe during the early 1900's, what with two world wars, and the concerns of a growing world, until the 1970's where it found itself being nurtured by London's pioneering fashion gurus and artists in the Underground!

In some parts of Australia and New Guinea one tribal custom is a pierced septum, giving the warrior a fierce savage appearance. In Borneo a man could choose to have pierced genitals for courtship and sexual enhancement reasons.

Ethiopian men and women have various facial piercings and some are identified by oversized ear discs. Lip plates in the women help to gain social status and command a higher bridal price.

Sioux Indians: a young man on his journey to manhood would have his crest pierced with eagle claws and then hang suspended in the air enduring the pain in this rite of passage.

By the 1990's, piercing had finally reached the attention of the entire globe closing the link from the ancients, to the modern.

In our culture we have brought to the mainstream some of these ancient and tribal practices as well as creating our Neo-Tribal customs. The big difference here is the expression of self choice. In our more permissive modern day society an individual can pierce their body for any number of the reasons listed above, but is not limited or obligated to a specific set of rules or conduct. Another unique principal behind modern day piercing is that unless the piercing has been overstretched, it can be viewed as temporary. The person can take out the jewelry if they desire and re-transform their "look" again and again.

Body Piercing Today

Grab your wholesale piercing jewelry and more Dermal Anchors at

Ear piercing has existed continuously since ancient times, including throughout the 20th century in the Western world. However, in many cultures within the United States, it became a relative rarity from the 1920s until the 1960s. At that time, it regained popularity among American women, and was eventually adopted by men in the hippie and gay communities, and later the punk subculture. Ear piercing, of either or both ears, has always been practiced by men in many non-Western cultures.

By the 1980s, male ear piercing had become somewhat common in the United States, although men usually only pierced one of their ears. Today, single and multiple piercing of either or both ears is extremely common among Western women, and fairly common among men.

Less conventional forms of body piercing have also existed continuously for as long as ear piercing, but generally not in Western cultures. For example, women in India routinely practice nostril piercing, and have done so for centuries.

In the 1970s, body piercing gained popularity in the gay BDSM subculture. In 1975, Jim Ward opened The Gauntlet, America's first storefront body piercing operation, in Los Angeles.

Body piercing is returning to the mainstream of modern Western cultures as attitudes and values change. Piercings that don't conform to cultural norms, for example, facial piercings or ear piercings for men -- can still be considered inappropriate.

Attitudes towards piercing vary. Some regard the practice of piercing or of being pierced as spiritual, sometimes embracing the term "modern primitive", while others deride this view as insulting, as cultural appropriation, or as trendy. Some see the practice as a form of artistic or self-expression. Others choose to be pierced as a form of sexual expression, or to increase sexual sensitivity. For some people, piercing is part of an S-M lifestyle or relationship, or is incorporated into S-M play.

Some people choose to be pierced for symbolic reasons. For example, some survivors of sexual abuse have said that they experience piercing as allowing them to retake control over their own bodies. Some people choose to be pierced to symbolize certain relationships. For gay men, piercing has historically been viewed as a form of public self-identification or "coming out". However, the current popularity of piercing among many different groups has diluted much of its specific cultural identification and symbolism.

While some people consider body modification to be a sign of non-conformity, others deride body piercing as trendy. This can at times lead to prejudice or cognitive bias against those with piercings or visible signs of past piercings.

Body Piercing

Body piercing goes with specific personality types - generally young people - most of whom have emotionally issues and learning challenges. The place on the body a person pierces, goes to their area of challenge. For example, if it is the tongue, that person may not be able to speak their mind or be assertives. Physical manfestation always links with emotional causation. Its how we come into self awareness and heal.


The ear lobe is by far, the most common place in history and now, to find a piercing.

An ear lobe piercing could have once distinguished a wealthy person from a poor one. Now it is simply the most popular way to display piercing jewelery. Sailors once pierced their ears believing it gave them better eyesight, while Romans associated ear piercing with wealth and luxury. South American and African tribes pierced ears and stretched the hole, similar to the flesh tunnels you see now. The bigger the hole, the higher your social standing.



Nostril piercing was first thought to originate in the Middle-East almost 4000 years ago. From there it spread into India in the 16th century, where it was quickly adopted into the noble castes. The kind of jewellery worn could distinguish the wearer by caste and social standing, much like a title, or even an identity card! The piercing was introduced into the west by the 'Hippy' culture, that travelled to India in the 60's and 70's. It was shortly adopted by the Punks and other youth culture of the 80's and 90's, until it's popular use in the new millennium.



In the ancient temples of the Aztecs and Mayans, Shamens and High Priests pierced their tongues as part of a ritual to communicate with their gods. Thousands of years later, and it is still a popular piercing, although for different reasons. Both men and women can find it sexually arousing, as well as empowering.


Lip and Labret:

The mouth and lips are a sensuous part of the body and power is an aphrodisiac, so it is only natural that only the higher castes of Aztecs and Mayans should adorn their lips with labrets of pure gold. In Africa, the women of the Makololo tribe of Malawi wear plates called 'Pelele' in their upper lip, to arouse the men in their tribes.

Tribes in central and South America pierced their lower lips and stretched the hole to fit in wooden plates. Now, lip piercing is more common among the general populace, more often on the lower lip, however recently upper lip piercing has become popular.


Many contemporary authors and body piercing enthusiasts have made attempts to explain the history or development of body piercing in Western Culture, prior to its contemporary practice. In Dreamtime by Hans Peter Duerr, he claims that nipple piercing became popular in 14th century Europe. There is evidence, both anecdotal and photographic, that nipple piercing was practiced in Europe during the late 19th century and in the early 20th century, but it was not considered to be a common practice. It is sometimes claimed that Roman centurions practiced nipple piercing and that soldiers attached their capes to the piercings. This is not true. Their capes were attached to the breastplate of their armor. This particular myth owes its popularity to Doug Malloy, an American piercing pioneer who published pamphlets in the late 1970's promoting his highly fanciful histories of body piercing.

Nipple piercings were once considered a sign of strength, virility and endurance. The natives of central America once pierced their nipples as a mark of the transition to manhood. The honor guard of the Roman Casears would also pierce their nipples to show their and duty to protect their emperor. It was said that it was their nipple jewelery that held their cloaks in place!

In the 1890's it was all the rage for Victorian women to pierce their nipple with jewelry sold by the famous jewelers of Paris. Some even had both nipples pierced and hung silver chains from one to the other. Now in the new millennium, it is becoming far more common.

Navel Piercing:

The first records of navel piercing stretch as far back as the ancient civilisations of Egypt. Then it was only the Pharos and their Royal families who were permitted to pierce their navels. Peasants who broke this rule were executed! However, if a peasant girl was born with 'The perfect belly button' she was sometimes permitted to have it pierced, and therefore to elevate her social standing. The navel is now one of the most popular piercings.

Genital Areas:



The motivations to pierce the gental aresa often include one or more of the following reasons:

  • For aesthetics, the look.
  • For sensual pleasure, sensual play or adding sensation.
  • To mark a special event in one's life
  • As a symbol of commitment in a relationship.
  • As a symbol of possession or for chastity [eg: in an S&M relationship]
  • As a means or signifier of reclamation [eg: as an abuse survivor]

    Male genital piercing have a wild and varied history, with instances showing up in numerous cultures and times as the samples below will bear out. The piercing of the glans of the penis for the insertion of jewellery is a very ancient practice. The apadravya piercing is mentioned in the Kama Sutra (700AD) and the palang piercing has been practised in SE Asia for several hundred years. Several genital piercing originate in Asia where piercing has been practiced since antiquity

    'The Palang' also called Ampallang is a piercing that occurred among the Kayan, Kenyah, Kelabit, Dayak, and Iban tribes of Sarawak on the Island of Borneo. It involves piercing the glans of the penis horizontally, and the insertion of a barbell. The term palang translates as crossbar in Iban and can be related to the timber roof supports of the longhouses of the tribes of the area, and symbolises the protective power of the male over the family.

    The word 'Guiche' is supposed to mean 'an opening' in French. The actual translation is 'window.' This piercing is supposed to be a Samoan puberty ritual. However, there is little evidence for that. The puberty ritual practised in Samoa is subincision, this is where the underneath of the foreskin is cut down to the frenulum.

    Hafada piercing is a scrotum piercing on the side of the scrotum, where there is a crease. It is supposed to have originated in Arabia and spread through Northern Africa and the Middle East. The piercing is carried out as a puberty ritual, and it is generally done on the left hand side. The piercing was supposedly bought back to Europe by French Foreign Legionaries when they were stationed in what is now Lebanon and Syria.

    Piercing of the foreskin for the insertion of jewellery is as old as circumcision. It goes back far beyond the earliest recorded history. During the games of Ancient Greece, the athletes performed nude, and to prevent their penises moving about they bound the foreskin with a ribbon and tied it to the base of the penis. This ribbon, or leather thong was called the 'Kynodesme' from the Greek 'Kuon' for foreskin, and 'Desmos' for fastening band. This temporary practice probably led to the permanent piercing of the foreskin, either to prevent slaves and athletes from having sex, or to prevent them from having erections. The Roman's used a practice called Infibulation. It involved two piercing going through the foreskin (or Labia in women) and a lock (Fibula) being placed therein.

    The Prince Albert piercing is named after Prince Albert, who was the husband of Queen Victoria of England. He was reputed to have had this piercing done prior to his marriage to the queen around 1825, at that time Beau Brummel started the craze for ultra tight men's trousers. Because the pants were so tight, the penis needed to be held to one side or the other so as not to create an unsightly bulge. To accomplish this some men had their penis pierced to allow it to be held by a hook on the inside of the trousers. This piercing was called a 'Dressing Ring' at the time because tailors would ask if a gentleman dressed to the left or the right and tailor the trousers accordingly.

    Male piercing is less anatomy dependent than female ones but still requires an experienced piercer to ascertain whether a piercing will be appropriate. There is some debate among piercers regarding the placement of the ampallang. This piercing is placed horizontally through the head of the penis (glans) and may or may not intercept the urethra, depending on the positioning chosen. The piercing is said to greatly enhance sex for both partners. As it is a long piercing, it can take six months or more to fully heal, although ampallangs placed through the urethra tend to heal more rapidly.


    This is a vertical piercing through the penis head, often placed so that the underside emerges from the same hole in a Prince Albert piercing. The piercing is discussed in the 'Kama Sutra,' the ancient Hindu writings on love, as a source of supreme pleasure to the male and his partner. It is a major piercing and will take several months to heal.

    Dydoes, usually worn in pairs, is piercing around the coronal edge of the penis head. Barbell studs are worn in the piercing, and should have small heads as the pressure from standard large head barbells could pull the piercing to the surface. This piercing is only appropriate for a man who has been circumcised, and is said to return some of the sensation lost with the removal of the foreskin. Dydoe piercing is less likely to migrate or reject if the corona is very pronounced.

    Foreskins can take single or multiple piercing. Because the tissue is so thin, healing is rapid. The foreskin piercing can be used both to increase sensation or to ensure chastity. This piercing can be very stimulating as the jewellery rubs against the glans.

    Frenum piercing is made through the loose web of skin between the foreskin and the head of the penis. Sizing and placement is extremely important, and the procedure and healing are rapid. The depth of the piercing should be made with regards to how much tissue is available to support the jewelery. The frenulum itself, which is sometimes left intact after circumcision, is too thin to support jewelery. The width of the piercing is usually between 3/8 and 1/2 wide. It is not necessary for the penis to be erect during placement; however, the placement may change when the penis is erect.

    A series of frenum piercing is called a frenum ladder. The skin of the lower half of the penis tends to be thinner and tighter, increasing the chance of migration or rejection. Tension is increased if the barbell balls exert pressure against the skin behind them.

    A frenum piercing made at the base of the penis has acquired the name lorum, short for 'lower frenum.'If the wearer is uncircumcised the piercing is placed inside the foreskin. A ring is usually chosen to be more comfortable than a barbell. The piercing should not be made through only the frenulum which is too thin to support jewelery. Some uncircumcised men have naturally occurring holes through the frenulum.

    Guiche piercing is made horizontally at the base of the scrotum, through the perineum, just in front of the position of the inseam of a pair of pants. Attaching weights to this piercing is said to be extremely stimulating. An outward facing fold of loose skin is optimum for this piercing. For most men the area is flat which increases the risk of migration or rejection.

    Guiche piercing can be difficult to heal because of friction and pressure against the wearer's thighs and pants. Guiche piercing is also easily irritated by perspiration and lack of air circulation. Occasionally a ring or protrusion of soft, inflamed tissue will form around the entrances of the piercing. Keep the piercing as dry as possible and wear non-restrictive clothing that allows air circulation. Usually the inflamed tissue recedes as the piercing heals.

    The Prince Albert piercing placed on the underside of the penis behind the glans in the centre of the triangle which can be visualized in the V of the glans. If a frenulum is present, the piercing should be made slightly to one side; the piercing is usually made on the opposite side of the direction the wearer 'dresses' (the direction the penis leans in pants) to reduce friction.

    This piercing is usually performed with the aid of a needle receiving tube inserted into the urethra; the piercing is made from the outside and pushed into the tube far enough that the tip of the needle is outside of the urethra when the tube is removed. Some piercers have devised alternate methods of piercing from the inside out.

    It is possible to have a successful P.A. piercing if the wearer is not circumcised. A curved barbell is suggested if the foreskin is not loose enough to accommodate a ring. Pressure exerted by the foreskin on a ring often causes the piercing to migrate or reject. If the foreskin is too tight to be completely retracted, the bottom edge of the foreskin can be cut or removed. This procedure can, in some cases, be considered medically necessary if the foreskin is so restrictive that it is painful during erection or sexual activity. This procedure should be performed by a physician.

    The piercing itself will not leak when the wearer urinates unless the piercing has been stretched beyond the thickness of the ring. The urine drip that is associated with the PA is a result of the urine dripping from the jewelry. Turning the penis 90 to 180 degrees while holding the ring to the side often prevents dripping.

    It is not uncommon for a Prince Albert piercing to stretch two or more gauges within the first year with frequent sexual activity or heavy jewelry. Wearing jewelry that is too thin or too heavy can cause the urethral lining to deteriorate. The reverse Prince Albert piercing is made through the top of the glans, usually about 3/8 inch to 1/2 inch from the top edge of the urethral opening.

    The dolphin is essentially two Prince Albert piercing with a single piece of jewelry, usually a curved or U-shaped barbell. Because the second piercing may be fairly deep into the shaft, it may take longer to heal than a standard Prince Albert piercing and may cause urethral irritation and swelling.


    While piercing can be made anywhere on the scrotum, piercing made through an outward facing fold of loose skin is more successful. The piercing must not puncture the testicle sac itself which can lead to very serious infection.

    Scrotum piercing can be difficult to heal. The scrotum expands and contracts which exerts stress on the entrances of the piercing. Scrotum piercings are easily irritated by perspiration, lack of air circulation, and friction against the wearerÕs clothing, thighs and penis. Occasionally a ring or protrusion of soft, inflamed tissue will form around the entrances of the piercing. Keep the piercing as dry as possible and wear non-restrictive clothing that allows air circulation. Usually the inflamed tissue recedes as the piercing heals.

    List of Piercing Areas On The Body Wikipedia

    Contemporary Piercing Procedure Wikipedia

    Piercing images by Kat Brennan

    In the News ...

    Piercing University of Pennsylvania Museum Images

    Painful as it might feel, the practice of piercing a hole through the skin and inserting a piece of metal, bone, shell, ivory or glass to wear as an ornament has been around for millennia. Body piercing occurs worldwide and is practiced on men, women and children. It's grown in popularity during the past five years, especially among American teenagers, who pierce just about anything that can be pierced: ears, noses, tongues, and navels.

    The most conventional form of piercing in the United States today is ear piercing. Among young and old, male and female, ear piercing is common practice and has become more mainstream for both sexes than it once was. Ear piercing can range anywhere from a single hole in one or both ears to holes along the entire rim of the ear.

    Our reasons for piercing our bodies can change over time, and may vary from culture to culture. People living on the island of Cyprus 2200 years ago pierced their ears. But this evidence can also raise questions: Were earrings worn by both men and women then? Why did these ancient people wear gold bulls as adornment? Archaeologists and anthropologists are always seeking answers to questions like these.

    Our reasons for piercing our bodies can change over time, and may vary from culture to culture. For example, a pair of gold earrings (left) from the Museum's Ancient Greek World gallery can tell us that the people living on the island of Cyprus 2200 years ago pierced their ears. But this evidence can also raise questions: Were earrings worn by both men and women then? Why did these ancient people wear gold bulls as adornment? Archaeologists and anthropologists are always seeking answers to questions like these.

    Among the Tlingit of southeast Alaska, we know that ear piercing was directly related to an individual's rank in society. Social position was determined by the wealth of the family into which the individual was born. Although a Tlingit could rarely better his own social standing, he could raise the station of his sister's children and his grandchildren by "potlatching" (hosting a community feast). At a potlatch the host paid a member of his moiety (group) to pierce the rims of the children's ears. At additional potlatches, other holes were added. A great amount of wealth was required to host the feast and pay the person to pierce the children's ears. Consequently, the resulting series of holes marked an individual as a member of the nobility.

    Practicing the ancient art of body-piercing

    January 7, 2002 - NY Times

    An Irish body-piercer has helped to solve a Bronze Age mystery. A series of enigmatic gold Nboxes¾ and „bobbins¾ dating back more than 3,000 years seem to have been ear-spools, worn in an enormously distended perforation through the lobe.

    "I happened to see Paddy O'Donoghoe on the Late Late Show," Mary Cahill of the National Museum in Dublin explains in Archaeology Ireland. "My immediate reaction was to shout 'He is wearing the Ballinesker boxes in his ears'. " In fact Mr O'Donoghoe, who runs a piercing parlour called Bodyshock in Dublin's Temple Bar district, was wearing a modern gold spool in a perforation nearly 3in across.

    He joined Ms Cahill at the museum, which has one of the finest collections of prehistoric goldwork in Europe, and helped to identify several pieces as ancient ear-ornaments. One type, known as 'boxes', look very like a pillbox, with straight walls: a set from Mullingar are between 2in and 3in in diameter and an inch deep, and would have been held in the earlobe simply by the elasticity of the flesh.

    A second type has slightly concave walls, so that the lobe would have been stretched over the rim before retracting back in place to hold the earspool tightly; a third kind has a relatively small central cylinder which was passed through the ear before the much wider outer and inner discs were attached.

    All were made of thin sheet gold, decorated with sets of concentric circles: recent rock-art discoveries in Ireland have shown that a form of scribing compass was used to produce perfect circles. Similarly distended earlobes are known from many other cultures, ranging from the pre-Hispanic Maya and Aztec, who used jade and obsidian earspools as well as gold, to contemporary Swahili women in Kenya. "Some of us may be surprised that our Bronze Age ancestors were practitioners of body-piercing," Ms Cahill says. "In order to distend the earlobe to the required size the process must be carried out over a long period by hanging weights from the perforation. It can be painful, and carries the dangers inherent in any para-surgical procedure."

    Other enigmatic gold objects may also have been fitted to various body parts, she suggests: "It is not too outrageous to propose that prehistoric people in Ireland may have pierced the rim of the ear, the septum and wings of the nose, or the mouth. Many of the ornaments may have been exclusive, based on sex, age or status: we do not know what symbolism they carried, but they embodied powerful meanings, perhaps even magic."

    Billed as the world's most pierced woman, Elaine Davidson, who has 1,093 piercings, from Brazil and resident in Edinburgh, and the man with the world's longest tongue, at 9.6cms from top lip protrusion point, Stephen Taylor from Coventry, England, pose at London's Tate Britain gallery to celebrate the book of Guinness World Records 100th millionth copy in print, Tuesday Nov. 11, 2003 - November 12, 2003 - Reuters