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Stretching the ear lobes has been increasingly popular in recent years. But it’s not the only body part that has been stretched the world over for thousands of years. Stretching is the piercing world is the deliberate expansion of a piercing that is healed. The purpose is to wear a specific type of jewelry. 

The most common forms of stretching you are likely to be seen in the ears, septum, lip, and tongue. Almost all piercings can be stretched, depending on the elasticity of the skin and where the piercing is. 

For example, cartilage piercings are more difficult to stretch. 

History and Culture of Stretching Piercings

Although it has become popular to have your ear lobe stretched, it has been around for many years and is not a modern practice. While many people use plastic, steel, wood, glass, and precious crystal adornments nowadays, it used to be bone, horn, wood, and stone. They were carved specifically for ear stretching purposes. However, some materials like shells, claws, and teeth have also been documented as being used.

Stretching of the skin in many places was used to scare enemies during wars, denote social status and aesthetic purposes. 


Notable Stretching Through History

The Iceman

Otzi The Iceman, dating back to 3300BC, is the oldest mummified body that has been discovered to date. He was found in the Alps between Italy and Austria and had a stretched lobe between 7-11mm. 

Gautama Buddha

You will often see Buddha statues with long, stretched lobes. Guatama Buddha wore heavy gold earrings or precious stones as a symbol of his status. He renounced his wealth and discarded all of the jewelry that he had worn. His lobes were permanently stretched. All statues are made with his lobed stretched but without adornments as a testament to his personal sacrifice in leaving his wealth behind him. 

Mursi Women in Ethiopia

The Nile Valley is known for its women decorating themselves with beautiful wooden plates in their bottom lip and ears. The Nilotic and Mursi women, around the age of 15, a year or so before their marriage have their lips and ears pierced by their mother. Wooden pegs will be pressed through each piercing. Once each stretch has healed, there will be a larger peg put in. The usual size for the stretch is between 8-22cms. Once the stretch is completed, the woman is entitled to a high form of respect from those without a stretch. 

King Tutankhamen

This renowned Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh is one of the earliest rulers known to have stretched lobes. Although there are many famous images of him, his most famous may be the one on his sarcophagus. You can see his stretched lobes depicted clearly here. Although it is unknown what tools would have been used to perform the stretch, it is thought that wooden plugs or bamboo would’ve been the tool in question.

Piercing ears and stretching have been around for thousands of years for many different cultures, and much of the jewelry designed we see now are based on those initial shapes and materials. 

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