Body piercing is the practice of puncturing or cutting a part of the human body, creating an opening in which jewelry may be worn. Body piercing is a form of body modification. The word piercing can refer to the act or practice of body piercing, or to an opening in the body created by this act or practice. The history of body piercing is obscured by a lack of scholarly reference and popular misinformation, but ample evidence exists to document that it has been practiced in various forms since ancient times throughout the world. In Western culture, body piercing has experienced an increase of popularity since World War II, with sites other than the ears gaining subcultural popularity in the 70s and spreading to mainstream in the 1990s.
An earring found in an Alamanic grave in Germany, dated ca. 6th or 7th century. Body adornment has only recently become a subject of serious scholarly research by archaeologists, who have been hampered in studying body piercing by a sparsity of primary source Early records rarely discussed the use of piercings or their meaning, and while jewellery is common among grave goods, the deterioration of the flesh that it once adorned makes it difficult to discern how the jewelery may have been used. Also, the modern record has been infiltrated with the 20th century inventions of piercing enthusiast Doug Malloy. In the 1960s and 1970s, Malloy marketed contemporary body piercing by giving it the patina of a Western history. His pamphlet Body & Genital Piercing in Brief included such commonly reproduced urban legends as the notion that Prince Albert invented the piercing that shares his name in order to tame the appearance of his large penis in tight trousers and that Roman centurions attached their capes to nipple piercings. Some of Malloy’s myths are reprinted as fact in subsequently published histories of piercing.