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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.
In many societies ear piercing is done as a puberty ritual, in Borneo the Mother and Father each pierce one ear as a symbol of the child’s dependance on their parents.
Ear piercing is an almost universal practice for men and women, it’s only in western society that it’s deemed effeminate. At various times in history men wore elaborate earrings; during the Elizabethan era many famous men such as Shakespeare, Sir Walter Raliegh and Francis Drake wore gold rings in their ears.
“As the Roman Republic grew more effeminate with wealth and luxury, earrings were more popular among men than women; no less a he-man than Julius Caesar brought back to repute and fashion the use of rings in the ears of men.”
“Jewels & Women; The Romance, Magic and Art of Feminine Adornment” Marianne Ostier, Horizon Press, New York, 1958