Ear Piercing History


The practice of ear-piercing dates back at least 5,000 years. This is in part to the discovery of Ötzi, an Icelandic mummy that lived during the late 4th millennium B.C. and died in the valley of the Alps known as Otzi. Upon the discovery of his mummy, 61 primitive tattoos of lines and crosses were discovered on his rib cage, lumbar spine, wrist, knee, calves, and ankles. Ötzi's mummy also sported ear piercings and stretched earlobes, stretching between 7 and 11 millimeters.

Ötzi's earlobes being pierced wasn't the only proof that ear-piercing was a common practice during ancient times. Ancient civilians from all around the globe have documented references within their artwork, documents, and carvings. Ear piercing was a sigh of wealth and significance to most cultures. In the ancient Persian city of Perepolis, carvings show male soldiers adorned with earrings and in ancient Egypt, tombs with pierced eared mummies have been discovered, even that of King Tutankhamun.

The Bible references to ear-piercing too, for example, in the book of Genesis, Abraham's son Isaac is described as giving his wife Rebekah a "Shanf", which translates to "golden earring." And in Exodus, Aaron told the Israelites to bring the earrings and other jewelry of their sons' and daughters' to him, so that he could make a golden idol for them to worship while Moses was on Mount Sinai.

Both men and women alike have been piercing their ears for cosmetic and ritualistic reasons since the beginning of time and it continues to be one of the most popular types of body art to date. How has ear-piercing remained so popular and what kind of ear-piercing can a person receive in this day in age?

Generally the term "ear-piercing" refers to the piercing of the center of an earlobe, but today more than 13 different types of ear piercings are available to receive. Each ear can accommodate an array of piercings and nearly any part of the ear can be pierced including the cartilage. Here is a full list of the types of piercings a person can ask a reputable tattoo or piercing studio to preform, they are:

  • Antitragus Piercing

  • Daith Piercing

  • Earlobe Piercing

  • Forward Helix Piercing

  • Helix Piercing

  • Industrial Piercing

  • Conch Piercing

  • Orbital Piercing

  • Rook Piercing

  • Snug Piercing

  • Tragus Piercing

  • Transverse Lobe Piercing

  • Upper Lobe Piercing

Status Symbols

Ear piercing has been a prevailing practice among people from all over the world for magical and ritualistic purposes, like warding off evil spirits to the onset of puberty. Tribes and communities have passed down the traditions and beliefs that piercings hold.

Even today, earrings are more popular than ever. Between 1920 and 1950, clip on earrings were "all the rage", with "good girls" showing their support of conformity to the social standards of the time and refraining from piercing their ears. It wasn't until the end of the 50s to the mid 60s, that the tables started to turn, and "piercing parties" became popular among young women, and since there wasn't yet a commercial market for such a trend, these young ladies pierced each others ears with ice cubes to numb the ears, then with a sewing needle to pierce and a potato catch it on the other end, they pierced their lobes.

Between the 60s and 80s small kiosks started to pop up in malls and department stores, establishing a new place for people to have their ears pierced. The family doctor, also became a sterile environment for an ear-piercing procedure. Today, tattoo and piercing salons are on almost every corner in the western world. The standards of safety and sterilization has improved greatly, and the options of unique piercings have increases ten fold.

Although ear-piercing was considered mainly a feminine practice in our western civilization, now, not uncommon to be practiced by both genders, as our cultural standards and acceptance has changed too. The tradition of gauging earlobes has also grown in popularity, with men somewhat more likely to stretch their ears than women, but again, not uncommon for either gender.

Whether you are female or male, having your ears pierced in this day in age, and finding a reputable and professional ear piercer who uses sterile piercing needles is a good idea. Piercing kiosks typically use piercing guns, which isn't deal because they work by forcibly tearing through the skin of the lobes with studs and are not sterile because the gun can not be steam cleaned in an autoclave between uses.

Having your ears pierced with a sterile needle instead of a piercing gun can actually help with the healing process too, by piercing with a sterile needle, ears heal faster and smoother, with less likelihood of a piercing infection. Caring and cleaning newly pierced ears is also an important step on the way to having fully healed ears, that can then show off their newly adored symbols and jewels. Happy Piercing!

Author: Ilee DeSoto

Earring Article on Wikipedia.org

"Ear Piercing History" PainfulPleasures.com

Tutankhamun - Wikipedia

Ötzi - The mummy in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology

Photos by Unsplash