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Body adornment has only recently become a subject of serious scholarly research by archaeologists, who have been hampered in studying body piercing by a sparsity of primary sources. Early records rarely discussed the use of piercings or their meaning, and while jewellery is common among grave goods, the deterioration of the flesh that it once adorned makes it difficult to discern how the jewellery may have been used. Also, the modern record has been vitiated with the 20th-century inventions of piercing enthusiast Doug Malloy. In the 1960s and 1970s, Malloy marketed contemporary body piercing by giving it the patina of history. His pamphlet Body & Genital Piercing in Brief included such commonly reproduced urban legends as the notion that Prince Albert invented the piercing that shares his name in order to diminish the appearance of his large penis in tight trousers, and that Roman centurions attached their capes to nipple piercings. Some of Malloy's myths are reprinted as fact in subsequently published histories of piercing.

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