The History of Ear Piercing

Ear Piercing–And Why We Love It

The practice of ear-piercing dates back roughly 5,000 years, with 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, Archaeologists discovered 61 primitive tattoos of lines and crosses inscribed on his rib cage, lumbar spine, wrist, knee, calves, and ankles.

Ötzi’s mummy also sported ear piercings and stretched earlobes, stretching between 7 to 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, writings, and carvings. Ear piercing was a sign of wealth and significance within 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 as well. In the book of Genesis, Abraham’s son Isaac is described as giving his wife Rebekah a “Shanf”, which translates to “golden earring.”

In Exodus, Aaron commanded that the Israelites bring him their earrings and other jewelry of their sons’ and daughters’, so that he could make a golden idol to worship, while Moses was on Mount Sinai.

Earlobe Art

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.

The term “ear-piercing” refers to the piercing of the center of an earlobe, but today, there are more than 13 different types of ear piercings a person can 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:

  • 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 ancient tribes from all over the world, for magical and ritualistic purposes.

These cultures believed that ear piercing could ward off evil spirits and heal pain. Piercings were considered status symbols, and a “right of passage”.

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.

Since there wasn’t yet a commercial market for such a trend, these young ladies pierced each others’ ears, with ice cubes and sewing needles.

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.

Fast forward to today, and there are many more options available.

Tattoo and Piercing Salons are on almost every corner in the Western world. The standards of safety and sterilization have improved, and the options of unique piercings have increased.

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.

Having your ears pierced in this day in age, and finding a reputable and professional ear piercer who uses sterile piercing equipment is vital.

Piercing kiosks typically use piercing guns, which isn’t the best because they work by forcibly tearing through the skin of the lobes and are not sterile.

Having your ears pierced with a sterile needle instead of a piercing gun can actually help with the healing process. The ears heal faster, smoother, and are less likely to become infected.

Caring and cleaning for newly pierced ears is the most important step. It should be done with rubbing alcohol or an antibiotic ointment twice a day for 3-5 days.

Once the ears are healed, it will be fun showing off newly adorned symbols and jewels!!

Happy Piercing!


Author/Writer–Ilee DeSoto

Earring Article on

“Ear Piercing History”

Tutankhamun – Wikipedia

Ötzi – The mummy in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology

Photos by Unsplash

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