A human mummified remain, well over 5,000 years old, is the earliest known body piercing. The mummified remains was a man known as ‘Otzi the Iceman’, he had large plug ear piercings; plugs seem to be the oldest form of body piercing or body modification ever recorded. Egyptians, back around 3150 BC, enjoyed adorning themselves with body piercings, and only the Pharaohs and the royal family were allowed to have certain types of body piercings that would distinguished them among the commoners. The Pharaoh were the only ones allowed to have their navels pierced, if anyone else was caught with a navel piecing, they were put to death.
The Bible also references body piercing; Genesis 24:22, the servant of Abraham gave Rebekah bracelets and nose rings. In Deuteronomy – 15:12, body piercing marks a slave and in Exodus, the golden calf, which was created by Aaron, was forged from the earrings of the Hebrews. In ancient Africa, nose piercing was a common practice among the Beja and Berer tribes, which are the oldest known inhabitants of the Sahara Desert. In the Middle East, the Bedouins, who are the original dwellers of the Sinai Arabian area, denotes their wealth by the size of their nose ring, this nose ring is then given to a future wife as a dowry and can be used as security by the wife if the marriage doesn’t work out. In India, nose piercing became popular when Middle East introduced it as a status symbol worn by the Mogul Emperor. The Maya and Aztec civilizations were known for piercing the tongue during blood rituals. The Kwakiutul, Tlinglit and Haida tribes of Northwest America region, practice tongue piercing in a ritual to create an altered state in which the shaman could communicate with the spirits.
There are as many different styles of body piercings as there are cultures that embrace the practice. Body piercing has been used as a cultural, a symbolic statement of status and beauty or can denote when a person has become an adult, a wife, a slave or a rebel, for as long as humans have been around.