History of Ear Gauging in Tribal Civilizations

A study of the history of ear gauging indicates the practice to be as old as recorded human history. For males, this form of ear piercing has been a symbol of status, while for women, in addition to being used as means of bodily decoration, it has also been employed to signify the attainment of womanhood.

Ear gauging, which is also referred to as ear stretching, is the stretching of ear lobe piercings to larger diameters than that of the original piercing. It is a form of body enhancement or beautification that many young western people adopt to look ‘different’ from the usual crowd. However, this is not a modern form of body piercing, since it has been around for as long as archaeological records exist.

In many cases, ear gauging has been used historically to indicate the standing of members of a specific tribe, and in many respects this is still the situation today. Stretched piercings have been, and still are, a reflection on the individual’s sexual capability and also their superiority over other males in the tribe. The larger the stretching, the more important the individual.

Otzi the Iceman is a prime example of mummies known to have stretched ears. This is the earliest known example of ear gauging, Otzi having 7-11 mm ear piercings during 3300 BC. It has been suggested that the stretching of the ears noted in depictions of Siddhartha Gautama, better known as Buddha, may have been caused by the weight of the gold jewelry he wore, but this is mere supposition.

It is supported, however, by the fact that the Masai tribe of Kenya and the Lahu and Karen-Paduang people of Thailand use this ‘gravity’ technique to stretch their piercings. Let us have a look at the ear gauging practices used today by various cultures.

A. Mursi Tribal Women

The Mursi is an Ethiopian tribe where the women are obliged to wear plates in their gauged ears and on their bottom lip. About a year prior to her marriage, or at about 15 years of age, a Mursi girl’s lip will be pierced by her mother and a wooden peg pushed through the incision.

Once healed, the peg is changed for a larger diameter one. Eventually, the peg is replaced by a plate of clay or wood, and this plate is successively changed for larger diameter ones until the required diameter is attained – from around 8 – 22 cm in diameter (3 – 9 inches). Once these plates have been secured, she receives a higher degree of respect than those without them, and is known as a ‘Bhansanai’.

These lip and ear plates need not be worn permanently, but are an expected adornment during special occasions such as during weddings and other celebrations, and when they serve food to men. Today, young women can generally make their own decision as to whether or not they follow this tradition.

B. The Masai People of Kenya

The practice of ear gauging has been common among Masai men and women for thousands of years. In recent years, however, most young men have not been following this custom, although you will still find many Masai women wearing ear decorations made from stones, cross-cut elephant tusks, wood and animal bones.

The original piercing is carried out using a thorn, sharpened twig or a sharp knife point. Once healed, ear gauging is then carried out by wearing increasingly heavy jewellery that pulls the lobe down and stretches the piercing. This is the traditional way of gauging ears in the more primitive cultures, although many Masai today will use proper ear gauging techniques, such as their own versions of insertion tapers or taper spikes. Beads are a common form of ornamentation, although plugs made from bone, tusks and wood are also used.

C. The African Fulani Tribe

Fulani women from Nigeria and Central Africa tend to use smaller diameter ear gauges, and decorate them using large gold domes or hoops carrying earrings. A Fulani child will have her ears pierced at around 3 years old, although they may not be stretched until she is older. The gauges used by Fulani women are relatively small compared to the Masai and Mursi, although the jewellery can be larger.

D. Asian Hill Tribes

Of the various hill tribes, the only two known to practice ear gauging are the Lahu from Thailand, and the Karen-Padaung (Longnecks) from Myanmar (Burma) and also the Phrae province in Thailand. That latter tribe are best known for their neck rings, offering the appearance of long necks, but both cultures believe the ear to be sacred and the more jewellery they can wear on the better. By gauging their ears, they are able to wear the maximum amount of jewellery they believe possible.

E. Mexican and Central American Civilizations

In Mayan and Aztec society, ear gauging was regarded as desirable for males. There are many Mayan representations of men with flares and ear plugs (ear spools) in gauged ears, and the material used was indicative of the social standing of the wearer. Jade ear plugs were worn by the higher classes, while the rest would use bone, stone, wood and other materials. In central Mexico, the craftsmanship of the Aztecs is evident in the ear gauging plugs and ornaments of gold and silver, though the lower classes would adorn their stretches earlobes with shells, copper and wood among many other imaginative materials.

Ear gauging has been carried out worldwide, and among other notable areas involved in this practice are Japan, where the Ainu used ear jewellery made from shells, bone and a ball and ring known as Ninkari. There are many other cultures worldwide where ear gauging was a part of their life, and even today many people regard ear stretching as a fashion statement and a way of expressing their own personality and individuality.

Hand Piercings, Finger Piercings, and Hand Web Piercings

Hand Piercings, Finger Piercings, and Hand Web piercings are all very rare and rather extreme. In fact, if you are even considering getting one of these piercings, you are truly one of the brave. The pain varies, and in fact usually there is minimal pain involved with the piercing, but the aftercare of these particular piercings is only for the stringent at heart.

Your hands are two of the most active places on your body. They are constantly in motion, they are full of germs, and they are very sensitive (all those nerves running through our hands help the brain process pain, pleasure, and temperatures). A contemporary phenomenon is getting the surfaces on your hands pierced. I’m not against these piercings at all, but more than most piercings, it is important you understand the risks before committing to the piercing.

Hand piercings are all surface piercings, so they are susceptible to the usual suspects – migration and rejection. Your hands are chock full of muscles, tendons, and nerves, so the constant motion of your hands don’t exactly work in your favor. Generally, the less disturbed the piercing area, the quicker and more successful the healing. With hand piercings you will not have the luxury keeping a hand “protected”. It will be exposed to the elements, germs, daily stresses, and abuses straightaway. For this reason, only get a hand piercing if you are willing to do the following.

First of all, you must clean it religiously. Your piercer will recommend cleaning it somewhere around three times a day with a warm saline solution – don’t skip this step! The saline helps keep the piercing site clean and free of buildup. You will have special instructions concerning which soap you can use, what moisturizer you can use, what liquids or gels you can’t put on your hands (Neosporin is always a no-no), ad infinitum. Smoking is definitely discouraged with a hand piercing, for the cigarette smoke that will inevitably drift around it will irritate your new piercing and prolong the healing. You must also be sure to keep the piercing site clean, not just from germs, but from dirt, trash, food, etc. Remember, you have a very delicate piercing that is being assaulted from all sides, so be careful!

Your lifestyle may have to change as well during the healing period. Besides not smoking, you shouldn’t be wearing gloves (they can tear the piercings out) or engaging in any activity that may put your hands at risk. If your career heavily depends on using your hands, you may want to think about getting one of these piercings extra carefully. Your everyday life will be affected by this piercing for at least a year – which is the general healing time. If you’ve never had a body piercing before, this probably isn’t a good one to start out with!

Now that the risks are known, and you still want to go ahead, here is what you can expect! For starters, don’t get pierced with a ring or hoop. You are just begging for it to get ripped out! Your hands touch too many objects everyday and a ring jutting out will get snared on something and it will be gone before you know it. Your piercer and you will decide if surface bars or curved barbells are best for your piercing location (which is largely determined by the shape of your hands, exact location, and lifestyle). It is not uncommon to have to get refitted a couple months after the piercing, for the swelling should have gone down enough to where you might need new jewelry to lie closer to the skin.

For hand piercings, the location can be almost anywhere. Surface bars will almost always be used, and the pain might be a bit intense. Rejection risk is high since there is not a lot of skin or tissue to penetrate, but with care this can be a relatively long term piercing.

Finger piercings generally don’t hurt nearly as much as they look, but these too have a high risk of migration. Generally pierced at the base of the finger to look like a ring, surface bars or barbells are used. The finger will swell after piercing, and is highly prone to infection, but by following the right aftercare and being super careful, you just may be able to make this piercing last a good long while.

Hand web piercings might be the most popular of the hand piercings – the webbing between each finger (especially between thumb and forefinger) is very thin and not hard to push a barbell through. It is also prone to rejection and migration, and infection is a very real possibility. This piercing should not affect your mobility (none of these piercings should affect any of your body functions), but the hand webs are major points in acupuncture therapy, so if you talk to an acupuncturist they probably won’t be keen on you receiving a piercing this area. There’s no western scientific evidence that piercing your hand webs will hurt you, but if you follow eastern medicine and science, you may want to hold off on web piercings.

All in all, piercings on the hand are rather extreme. They require constant care, zealous protection, regular cleaning, and even then it’s not a guarantee that these piercings will last. Yet, if you want to push the boundaries and your lifestyle affords it, you can try to get a piercing on your hand. For many people who successfully have them, it’s their favorite piercing!

Nose Rings, Studs And Bones – Which Is For You?

Nose piercings have become very popular among people who are in favour of surface piercings; nose rings, studs and balls are actually second in popularity after ear piercings. Although there are more women who have pierced noses than men, someone who wears a nostril piercing is making a personal statement for him- or herself. A successful piercing means someone followed their nose piercing aftercare instructions.

Nose piercings have a common place among the cultures of India as well as most parts of the middle east. As a matter of fact, in India and in some parts of the middle east, a man gives a woman he is about to marry a nose ring which is the western world’s equivalent of a wedding ring. These days, nose bones are quite a bit popular. A woman would only need to turn her head for other people and men in particular to understand that she is already married.

Should you decide that you would like to go and get your nostril pierced, there are actually a couple of nose rings, studs and bones that you can choose from. There is the screw that starts as a straight stud but has hooks as well as curves so you would not be able to easily pull it out regardless of how much you pull at it. This particular stud is put in through the nostril by slowly inserting and is carefully removed through the fleshy part of the nostril. A nose bone on the other hand is a kind of stud that has a large round part at one end that is pushed through the nostril so that the jewelry is kept in its place.

There are a lot of people who advise against using a nose bone when you decide to go ahead and have your nose pierced for the first time. Because of the way a nose bone is designed, there is a distinct possibility that the shaft of the stud will be too short to get completely through a nostril that happens to be a little thicker than the average person. Even if a pierce is accomplished completely through the flesh, does not mean that the subsequent swelling won’t swallow the nose bone. If the interior face of the piercing heals over, the nose bone may have to be removed surgically.

When you wear nose bone jewelry, your nose’s wound would heal around the stud that is pierced through your nostril, with the egg-shaped end, which is somewhat larger than the shaft, this makes it very difficult to remove and can even slow down or worse – reverse the healing process because if you move it around or try to take it off, you would tear at the healing tissue, causing another wound. Piercers more often than not recommend that you opt for a nose screw instead during the beginning. A nose screw that is made of surgical stainless steel or if you can afford to have one, an eighteen karat gold nose screw.

Teardrop Piercing And How To Get One

Are you ready to get pierced again? Well, why not try the teardrop pierce? If you are feeling bold and you want something different when it comes to body piercing, you might want to try teardrop piercing. This piercing got its name because the pierced section is situated right atop the apples of your cheeks, just where teardrops usually fall. Those who get the teardrop pierce make use of the same earrings used for the belly or the brow.

Before getting this kind of piercing, here are some important things you need to take note of:

Visibility – Teardrop piercing is highly visible, unless you take off the earrings. It’s right on the ears and the hole stretches close to an inch so you can’t really use a regular earring to go through it.

Tolerance for pain – Most people say that this kind of piercing does not hurt. But in truth, it can. It actually depends on your own tolerance for pain and also the skin you have at that area. Remember that facial skin is softer and sometimes thinner than other parts of the body.

Sensitive skin – Teardrop piercing is done right on your skin. So make sure your face is not that sensitive because you will have to sanitize the piercing in two weeks time, very regularly. Make sure that you apply alcohol on the area without risking breakouts or facial allergies.

Aside from these things, you also need to take note of the person who will get the piercing done. Hygiene is very important. Make sure you are only getting pierced from a specialist who really uses clean tools. Here are some tips you can use to find the best piercing artist to do this work on you:

Ask recommendations from friends – Get in touch with your own network of friends. Ask them for their own recommendations. They might be able to give you the contact details of a good artist for the job.

Take a trip to the location – Before getting pierced, take time to actually go to the location and see how the artist will actually be doing the work on you. Does the place look clean? Do they use sanitized tools in there? Are you comfortable with the person who’s going to do the work on you? It’s also good to find a shop that’s actually near your home so that you won’t have to travel far with your fresh piercing on.

Talk with your artist – Tell your artist what you like and if you have pain issues, be upfront about it. Ask questions about teardrop piercing especially about cleaning it. They will be the best people to ask about it anyway. You can also ask if they could be the ones to provide the earring because some shops might only be willing to do the labor but will rely on your for the earrings.