Nose Piercing: A History

by Alexander Baran
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Coming in third on the list of most common body piercing sites, it's no wonder the nose has grabbed modern America's attention. From celebrities to rock stars, and even neighborhood teenagers, a nose stud or hoop is becoming increasingly commonplace in our popular culture. The practice of nasal piercing however, has it's own far longer and much further reaching history.  Documentation exists dating back as far as 1500 BCE.

Throughout the centuries, nose piercing has been a prevalent cultural practice amongst numerous tribes and ethnic groups, including Hindus, many ancient middle eastern tribes and the modern Beduin, South American peoples like the Mayans and Incas, groups of Aborigines in Australia, and several indigenous African tribes. The gift of golden nose earrings is even mentioned in the book of Genesis.

The placement and adornment of piercing means many different things to different peoples. South and central American civilizations would often pierce the septum and decorate it with feathering or bone fragments as a symbol of status, while the Vedic cultures of India pierce female noses primarily on the left side in keeping with the belief that this improves feminine health. In certain middle eastern tribes, the size and shape of a nose ring is even an interpretation of wealth.

Other variations of nose jewelry also exist worldwide. These include multiple piercings of a single nostril, gauging or stretching of a septum piercing (usually worn as either a large ring or a plug), attachment of ear lobe or cartilage piercings to the nose with a decorative chain, and even piercing of all three major points in the nasal cartilage (septum and each nostril.)

No matter the type of decoration worn, the evolution of nose piercing in America has been relatively slow in comparison to the rest of the globe.  Increasing in popularity after World War II, piercing of the nose in particular finally reached mass acceptance along primarily the East and West coasts of the US in the 90's.  Arguably it's greatest boost came about in the early 1970's riding the coat tails of the anarchist movement and the mass circulation of Punk music.

From ancient mysteries to modern day social magic, nasal piercing has had its share of fastidious ups and downs.  The one thing most of us can agree on: whether its a shiny silver hoop or more sparkly gem laced fair, a perfectly pierced nose is nothing to sneeze at.

by Alexander Baran

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