The Complete Guide to Body Piercing, Healing and Possible Complications

The Complete Guide to Body Piercing, Healing and Possible Complications

Body piercing throughout the ages

Piercing is a form of body modification that has been around for thousands of years. Not only reserved for rebellious teens, bikers or societal misfits, the truth about this ancient practice is that it has had many meanings and uses throughout history!

Ears, lips, eyebrows, tongues, genitals, nipples and even nails are all options when choosing a piercing, with just about any part of the human body having a role to play in the process.

As with any part of life and society, body piercing (and body modification as a whole) has trends. This has always been the case and different piercings have often held different meanings depending on the time and culture of the people involved.

Ancient civilisations and body modification

The Ancient Mesoamerican people, including the Aztecs dating back as far as 21,000 BCE, had many rules regarding piercings. For the most part piercings were used as a sign of social standing and military success. The older males who ruled the tribes often had lip, ear, or nose piercings that were adorned with gold and precious gems.

If men from the same tribes wanted to increase their social standing, and therefore increase the size of their piercing, proving themselves in war was the easiest way to do so.

Piercing was also practiced by the ancient Egyptians, with the oldest mummy ever found dating back to 3,300 BCE sporting ear piercings. Subsequent archaeological findings from this region revealed that the trend continued in the thousands of years to come.

Nose piercings have been customary in various cultures and for various reasons since the beginning of time, and nose rings have been used in engagement and marriage rituals in North Africa and the Middle East. The practice later made its way to India.


In Ancient Rome, men pierced their nipples as a sign of virility and camaraderie. Women only followed suit much later in the 14th century when Queen Isabella of France introduced the world to garments with plunging necklines, and with the nipples prominently on display, piercings were considered jewellery adornments that went with the dresses.

Genital piercings are also nothing new. In Ancient Greece, warriors and athletes would have their foreskins pierced and tied to a thong at the base of the penis to keep the genitals out of the way during combat and sporting events.

Young male Roman athletes were believed to have their genitals pierced in an attempt to keep them healthy. The same practice was also used to keep young male singers from losing their virginity in a hope that their voices would remain the same as during their prepubescent years.
This was largely due to the fact that Aristotle (384–322 BCE) noted that the development of a voice in boys of 14 was greater in sexually active boys than those who abstained.

A shift in thinking…

Once the medieval period rolled around in Italy, the use of piercings had changed exponentially. No longer were nobles and kings represented by the holes in their ears or noses, but instead slaves and sex workers were required to pierce one ear.

The 17th Century welcomed a slight shift in thinking once more when men adorned themselves with fancy jewellery as a sign of being ready for marriage. Many paintings from the era show young noblemen with diamond studs or pearl drop earrings in one ear.

Eventually the roles that piercings played in society shifted from those seeking to be married to those expressing their individuality. Now, in our modern era, piercings are no longer just for rebels, the flamboyant, or teens, but for everyone.

Even workplaces are starting to change their policies regarding body modification as the world moves to an online space where just about anything goes.

In fact, piercings are so widely accepted now that you may be thinking about getting one or two yourself. If that’s the case, make sure that you have all of the facts before proceeding!

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