History of Body Modification

There is a sub culture that is all around us. It is the art of body modification. People do different things to there bodies to make it reflect who they feel they are inside. According to Webster’s dictionary, “body modification is the permanent or semi-permanent altering of the human body for non-medical reasons, most often religious or aesthetic. ” Many items that fall under this broad category are frowned upon by society. However, there are some that are accepted as well. This is a brief history of those types of modification.

There are many different types of body modification. I am going to be focusing on two of the most known types: tattoos and piercings. Tattoos are pictures that have been imprinted on a person’s skin. They are put on the skin with needles that have ink on them to make them permanent. There are also non-permanent tattoos which are put on top if the skin with henna ink or temporary dyes. Piercings are holes that have been purposely made in the body of a person. Typically piercings are done in cartilage, skin, or tissue. It is done with a hollow needle, clamps and jewelry.

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The place is marked and the clamps hold the skin taunt and the needle is pushed through. The jewelry is inserted into the hole as the needle is pulled out. Two of the main reasons why body modification was started are religious and social. Few religions use tattoos as a sign of maturity. In ancient Catholic religion when a child, both male and female, reached puberty they were tattoo as a sign of adulthood. Other religions view tattoos as a sign of maturity. In the Italian Apennines tattoos were used as a way to reproduce the stigmata of the saint.

The Aztecs, Maya, and Native Indians have used tongue piercings as part of their religious rituals. Ancient Egyptians used different kinds of piercings as signs of a person’s social status. The wealthier a person was the more elaborate the piercing. Only the Pharaoh could have the now popular navel piercing. In England during the Victorian Era the many members of the royal family had either their nipples and or their genitals pierced. The first documentation on tattoos and piercings was found in the Iceman. With carbon dating he was found to be from the year 3,300 B.

C. He had over 58 tattoos and one piercing. Many of the tattoos are basic dots and lines on joints of his body. No one knows for sure as to why he has the tattoos. The ideas range from medical reasons to aesthetic reasons. Tattooing and piercing was popular in Egypt and Libya in 2686 B. C. Many of the children’s dolls had tattoos on them. By that point they were already using needles to apply the tattoos. The places where the art of body modification started are not known. We can only have an idea as to where it started.

The Iceman was found in the Otzal Alps between Austria and Italy. It has been a Eurasian practice since the Neolithic times. However one feels about body modification one must admit that it a part of our history. When it was once accepted by people of all kinds it has grown into something that is taboo to many people. There are some types such as tattoos and piercings that are becoming more accepted and widespread. There will always people who will be against it no matter how mainstream any form of modification becomes.

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