African Body Modification

Topics: Earring, Ear, Earlobe Pages: 2 (478 words) Published: December 15, 2012
Ear Piercing in Tribal Culture
Many African, Asian and South American tribes are known to have various piercings all over their body. The African Samburu warriors whom are found in Kenya wear ivory ear plugs as a sign of bravery and manhood, and other tribes like the Masai and Pokot wear several ear rings in their ear lobes. Some of these tribes also stretch the ear lobes. Ear piercings were also considered symbols of female adornment.

Ear Piercing Throughout History
There are different cultural significances of ear piercing. Ted Polhemus, an American anthropologist, believes that ears were first pierced because primitive tribes feared that evil spirits and demons could enter the body through the ears. Piercings allows the demons and spirits to slip through the lobes. He also claims that in many societies, piercing of earlobes is a ritual to celebrate puberty.

Oldest Evidence of Ear Piercing
In 1991, the remains of what is believed to be the oldest mummified body were found in an ice block in Austria. On closer inspection of the mummy, it was found that the ears of the mummy were pierced. This indicates that ear piercing was in practice even about 5000 years ago, which is the approximation of the age of the mummified remains.


The ear-lobe was probably man's first attempt at body piercing due to the ease with which it can be pierced. The oldest mummified body in the world was found frozen in an Austrian Glacier in 1991, tests showed the body to be over 5,000 years old. The body had pierced ears and the holes had been enlarged to 7-11mm diameter.

Ears were probably first pierced for magical purposes, very many primitive tribes believe that demons can enter the body through the ear, because demons and spirits are supposed to be repelled by metal, ear-piercing prevents them entering the body. Sailors used to have an ear pierced to improve eyesight, and if the bodies washed up somewhere it would pay for a christian burial....
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