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Researchers found 11,000-years-old earrings that are proof of world's oldest piercings

In total, the researchers found 106 items used as ornaments, of which 85 were complete and could be analyzed.

Researchers found 11,000-years-old earrings that are proof of world's oldest piercings
Cover Image Source: Pexels | Pixabay; Newsweek

One might think that body piercing is probably a few hundred years old, but that's not true. Researchers have found accessories from graves at a Neolithic settlement in Turkey, which are about 11,000 years old and have been associated with coming-of-age rituals in which young adults were pierced to symbolize that they have become mature, reports IFLScience. Moreover, these ornaments are made of stone and volcanic glass.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | imustbedead
Representative Image Source: Pexels | imustbedead

The study was published in an Antiquity Journal called "From Head to Toe in the Ancient Maya World: Earrings." Dr. Emma Baysal, one of the authors of the study, said, "We knew that there were earring-like artifacts in the Neolithic, they have been found at many sites. But we were lacking in situ finds confirming their use on the human body before the late Neolithic." These pieces of jewelry were discovered at the Stone Age site of Boncuklu Tarla, which dates back to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic.

They were found around the ears and mouths of the skeletons buried at the site, which proves that they were used as piercings by them. In total, the researchers found 106 items clearly used as ornaments, of which 85 were mostly complete and that they could be analyzed. They were mainly made of limestone, river pebbles, or obsidian and had a minimum diameter of 7 millimeters (0.28 inches), so in short, they needed a large perforation in the person's skin wearing them.


They identified seven different piercing types, some of which were found in or around the skeleton's ear canals and categorized as ear piercings. They were also discovered within the neck or ribcage area, near the chin, indicating that they were lip studs called a labret. The researchers were able to prove the use of lip labrets because an artifact was found within the oral cavity of a skeleton. The osteological analysis found a particular pattern of wear on an individual's lower incisors not related to diet and seems to have been caused by repeated contact with a stone piercing beneath the lower lip.


Baysal told Newsweek, "The significance [of the findings] is that things we do today—i.e., use body piercings—can be traced back to some of our prehistoric ancestors many thousands of years ago at a time when they were just starting to settle down in the first villages. Basically [this was] a time when their lifestyles increasingly began to look like how we live today. In those days, piercings were a risky business because they probably couldn't easily treat infections."

The researchers claim that the findings from Boncuku Tarla show the "earliest contextual evidence" for the use of body augmentation involving the piercing of bodily tissue in southwest Asia. "We think these are the earliest examples yet recorded in their original context on the skeletons of the people who used them. We have earlier indirect evidence of labret use from other sites—but this is through wear on teeth and not directly from ornaments on skeletons," said Baysal.


According to her, the latest findings will help researchers reinterpret hundreds of artifacts known from the Neolithic period across western Asia and Eastern Europe that were found previously. "They had very complex ornamentation practices involving beads, bracelets, and pendants, including a very highly developed symbolic world, which was all expressed through the medium of the human body," said Baysal.


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