The Lip Plate; Ancient Body-Art:
The lip plate, an ancient kind of body-modification, which has been popular among tribal people in both Africa and South America. Indeed, there are still a few tribes alive today in both continents, keeping it alive. It is technically the worlds oldest lip piercing, or more scientifically/technically termed, labret. Indeed it is said that lip piercings and even lip plating goes back as far as almost 9000 years BC. With archaeological findings serving as evidence for this dating.
In the Amazon rain forest, it is usually the young men who get their lips pierced and gauged with plates. Where as in Africa, it is more often young women that get this body-modification done. It would seem that in both cases, it is as a form of right of passage. Also, it would seem that beauty ideals have been formed around the body-modifications. Meaning that they have become objects that make the wearer more attractive, within their respective culture.
Especially among the African women of the Mursi people, the lip plate is all about attaining womanhood, female empowerment and self-esteem. At least that is what some scholars believe (LaTosky, 2004, Turton). The young women do choose themselves, whether to pierce their lips or not. It typically happens between the ages of 15-16. It is more often than not done by another woman, in some cases by the mother.
It is fascinating when you read about stuff like the lip plate. An ancient form of body-modification, that would make some modern body-modders, thin twice even. But it is also living history, an ancient art-form and cultural heritage, luckily still kept alive by its people. We are lucky that some people keep these things alive. Then we can learn from our fascinating past.