Houdini made the claim that this trick was older in The Unmasking of Robert Houdin* (1908: Summary of some of the arguments). You can read more details of previous tricks of this nature here*. While the Time Magazine photographs don't seem to be in the Time archive, you can read an apparent copy of the 1833 People's Magazine article*, with an illustration of a Fakir doing the trick here. A Thurston poster featured the trick in 1927. You can also see a modern example of the trick here. The degree to which this is any more "ancient" than 1833 is not determinable.