Body Modifications- Neolithic Style

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Prehistoric nose-, lip-, and ear-plugs are made out of Quartzite and more often of semi-precious stones. They first appeared during the early Neolithic in the Near East, Greece and the Balkans, and  over large areas of N-Africa including the Maghreb and the Sahara.

Man is the “symbol-using animal …..rotten with perfection” (K. Burke 2006). Indeed the symbolic Neolithic artifacts, shown in this blog, are perfectly smoothed and dimensioned for their putative use in the modification of the body.

Body modification is deliberate altering of the human anatomy and embraces procedures such as tattooing and body piercing. Those practices have a long history and are well known from various cultures in Asia, Africa, America, and Oceania. There is also evidence for the prevalence of tattoos in Europe, dating back over 5000 years (the Tyrolean Iceman).

During prehistoric times, nose-, lip-, and ear-plugs may be have been used:

  • For aesthetics
  • In rites of passage
  • For betrothal rites
  • For displaying religious beliefs
  •  For displaying group membership or affiliation, whether ethnic, religious or social
  •  As self-expression
  • As an inevitable part of a “dress”
  • To display power and /or religious dominance
  • To display social stratification / regional inequities
  • As a marker of social  and personal status
  • For protection (in the form of amulets)
  • For Artistic display
  • For Sexual enhancement

Anyhow we lack any systematic review about this theme…….

An Ethnography about the “social skin”:

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About Katzman

During my whole life I was fascinated by stone age artefacts. Not only the aesthetic qualities of these findings, but also the stories around them and the considerations arising from their discovery, are a part of my blog. Comments and contributions are allways welcome! About me: J.L. Katzman (Pseudonym). Born in Vienna. Left Austria in 1974 and did not regret. Studied Medicine and Prehistory at a German University. Member of a Medical Department at a German University. Copyright 2010-2017 by JLK. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to use material in these posts so long as you cite the work.
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3 Responses to Body Modifications- Neolithic Style

  1. Marina W. says:

    Hi! Could you add some bibliography to this text?
    Thank you!

  2. Katzman says:

    This is a common topic of social anthropology- a lot of pdfs in the net…,

  3. Grant Keddie says:

    See my articles on labrets – google “Grant Keddie” Royal B.C. Museum curators profile.

    My middle east materials needs update.

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