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Earring History(part 1)

Categories: Latest NewsStars: 3Stars Visit: - Release time: 2015-11-03 11:44:00
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This section includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. Please help to improve this article by introducing more precise citations. (April 2008)

Ear piercing is one of the oldest known forms of body modification, with artistic and written references from cultures around the world dating back to early history. Early evidence of earrings worn by men can be seen in archeological evidence from Persepolis in ancient Persia. The carved images of soldiers of the Persian Empire, displayed on some of the surviving walls of the palace, show them wearing an earring.

Howard Carter writes in his description of Tutankhamen's tomb that the Pharaoh's earlobes were perforated, but no earrings were inside the wrappings, although the tomb contained some. The burial mask's ears were perforated as well, but the holes were covered with golden discs. That implies that at the time, earrings were only worn in Egypt by children, much like in Egypt of Howard's times.

Other early evidence of earring-wearing is evident in the Biblical record. In Exodus 32:1–4, it is written that while Moses was up on Mount Sinai, the Israelites demanded that Aaron make a god for them. It is written that he commanded them to bring their sons' and daughters' earrings (and other pieces of jewelry) to him in order that he might comply with their demand. (ca. 1500 BCE)

Earrings became fashionable among courtiers and gentlemen in the 1590s during the English Renaissance. A document published in 1577 by clergyman William Harrison, Description of England, states "Some lusty courtiers and gentlemen of courage do wear either rings of gold, stones or pearls in their ears." Among sailors, a pierced earlobe was a symbol that the wearer had sailed around the world or had crossed the equator. In addition, it is commonly held[citation that a gold earring was worn by sailors in payment for a proper burial in the event that they might drown at sea. Should their bodies have been washed up on shore, it was hoped that the earring would serve as payment for "a proper Christian burial". Regardless of this expression, the practice predates Christianity and can be traced back as far as ancient Greece where the gold paid the ferryman, Charon, to provide passage across the river Styx to Hades.

Detail from Chandos portrait (1660s) of William Shakespeare; earrings were emblematic of poets at the time.

The practice of wearing earrings was a tradition for Ainu men and women, but the Government of Meiji Japan forbade Ainu men to wear earrings in the late-19th century. Earrings were also commonplace among nomadic Turkic tribes.

By the late 1950s or early 1960s, the practice re-emerged, but since a large commercial market did not exist, most ear piercings were done at home. Teenage girls were known to hold ear piercing parties, where they performed the procedure on one another. Such an event is depicted in the 1978 motion picture Grease (set in 1959), where Sandy (Olivia Newton-John), the leading lady, is pierced by her friends.

By the mid-1960s, some physicians offered ear piercing as a service. Simultaneously, Manhattan jewelry stores were some of the earliest commercial, non-medical locations for getting an ear piercing.

In the late 1960s, ear piercing began to make inroads among men through the hippie and gay communities, although they had been popular among sailors for decades (or longer). Traditionally, a right-side piercing identified a man as gay and left-side as straight. Both sides pierced is also commonly denoted as gay, though this has modified somewhat over the past decade.

 

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