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Body modification refers to the range of practices that individuals undertake to alter the physical appearance of the body. Often used to reference tattooing and piercing, it also includes practices such as branding, cutting, and scarring, as well as cosmetic surgical procedures that vary from breast augmentation to calf implants. Broader conceptualizations of the term also include exercising, dieting, and weight lifting, as well as adornment practices such as tanning, makeup use, and nail coloring.

Historical and cross-cultural accounts of body modification reveal its universality. For example, in the late 1700s, Captain James Cook, a British explorer, and his navy crewmen were introduced to tattooing by native Tahitians. Earrings have been found on mummified remains more than 5,000 years old. And, in the 1500s, Gaspare Tagliacozzi, ...

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