28 May 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

New study says earliest recorded kiss occurred 4500 years ago in Mesopotamia

The University of Copenhagen according to researchers, humanity’s earliest recorded kiss occurred around 4,500 years ago in the ancient Middle East – 1,000 years earlier than previously thought.

Kissing was practiced in the earliest Mesopotamian societies, according to scientists, and may even have contributed to the spread of cold sores. In their article, published in the journal Science, the researchers said the findings suggest kissing was common across many cultures and did not originate in a specific region.

According to the researchers, this contradicts a previous theory that the earliest evidence of human lip kissing came from a specific region of South Asia 3,500 years ago.

“In ancient Mesopotamia, which is the name for the early human cultures that existed between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers in present-day Iraq and Syria, people wrote in cuneiform script on clay tablets. Many thousands of these clay tablets have survived to this day, and they contain clear examples that kissing was considered a part of romantic intimacy in ancient times, just as kissing could be part of friendships and family members’ relations,” says Dr Troels Pank Arbøll, an expert on the history of medicine in Mesopotamia at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

He continues: “Therefore, kissing should not be regarded as a custom that originated exclusively in any single region and spread from there but rather appears to have been practiced in multiple ancient cultures over several millennia.”

Studies on bonobos and chimpanzees – the closest living relatives to humans – have shown they engage in kissing.

This suggests the practice of kissing is a fundamental behaviour in humans and explains why it can be found across cultures, the scientists said.

Babylonian clay model showing a nude couple on a couch engaged in sex and kissing. Date: 1800 BC. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Babylonian clay model showing a nude couple on a couch engaged in sex and kissing. Date: 1800 BC. Photo: © The Trustees of the British Museum

The researchers also said kissing may have unintentionally played a role in the transmission of viruses such as herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1), which causes cold sores.

Dr. Arboll said: “There is a substantial corpus of medical texts from Mesopotamia, some of which mention a disease with symptoms reminiscent of the herpes simplex virus 1.”

But he added that ancient medical texts can be influenced by cultural and religious concepts so they cannot be read at face value.

Dr. Arboll said: “It is nevertheless interesting to note some similarities between the disease known as buʾshanu in ancient medical texts from Mesopotamia and the symptoms caused by herpes simplex infections.

“The bu’shanu disease was located primarily in or around the mouth and throat, and symptoms included vesicles in or around the mouth, which is one of the dominant signs of herpes infection.”

Recent studies have shown that modern-day viruses that spread through kissing, such as HSV-1, Epstein-Barr virus, which causes glandular fever, and human parvovirus B19, which causes a bright red rash on the cheeks in children, were present in ancient times.

Dr. Sophie Lund Rasmussen, of the University of Oxford, said: “If the practice of kissing was widespread and well-established in a range of ancient societies, the effects of kissing in terms of pathogen transmission must likely have been more or less constant.”

Dr. Arbøll and Dr. Rasmussen conclude that future findings from ancient DNA research will benefit from an interdisciplinary approach, as they will inevitably lead to discussions about complex historical developments and social interactions, such as kissing as a driver of early disease transmission.

Cover Photo: Babylonian clay model showing a nude couple on a couch engaged in sex and kissing. Date: 1800 BC. © The Trustees of the British Museum

University of Copenhagen

Related Articles

5000-year-old jewelry factory found in Rakhi Garhi in India’s Indus Valley region

9 May 2022

9 May 2022

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has made an important discovery by finding the remains of a 5000-year-old jewelry factory...

Unique Scythian glass pendants found in the Poltava region of Ukraine

8 October 2021

8 October 2021

Archaeologists have unearthed unique amphora-shaped pendants near the town of Kotelva in the Poltava oblast of central Ukraine. A team...

Albastı “A Mother’s Nightmare “

5 February 2021

5 February 2021

Albastı is one of the bad characters in Turkish mythology. The fearful dream of puerperal women and babies, Albastı continues...

Archaeologists may have found the Sanctuary of Samian Poseidon described in ancient texts

11 October 2022

11 October 2022

During excavations in the foothills at the ancient acropolis of Samicum in Greece, archaeologists may have found the sanctuary of...

2000-year-old glass treasure in Roman shipwreck discovered by an underwater robot in Mediterranean

24 July 2023

24 July 2023

The Italian-French mission recovered a selection of glassware and raw glass blocks from the Roman shipwreck located at a depth...

In Germany, volunteers unearthed the largest hoard of Slavic coins to date and bronze-age seven swords

29 November 2023

29 November 2023

Volunteer archaeologists found bronze age seven swords and from the 11th century 6000 silver coins in the northeastern German state...

Bergama Ancient City Takes Its Place in Digital Environment

1 February 2021

1 February 2021

As a result of the studies carried out by the German Institute, Bergama Ancient City was It was transferred to...

Paleontologists Unearth 139 Million-Year-Old Pregnant Dinosaur Fossil in Chile

10 May 2022

10 May 2022

Archeologists in Chile have unearthed the fossilized remains of a 13ft-long pregnant ichthyosaur from a melting glacier -marking the first...

Celtic gold rainbow cup coin discovered in Bavaria

12 September 2023

12 September 2023

An extremely rare “rainbow cup” Celtic coin dated to the second or first century B.C. has been discovered next to...

Pendants and beads reveal nine European Cultures living across the continent 30,000 years ago

1 February 2024

1 February 2024

In a new study, researchers have constructed a continent-wide database of personal ornaments worn by Europeans 34,000-24,000 years ago, a...

A tiny 2,300-year-old votive vessel presented to the gods by the poor was found in the Ancient City of Troy

27 August 2022

27 August 2022

A 3-centimeter in size tiny vessel made of clay was found in the ancient city of Troy located at Hisarlik...

2000-year-old Genuine Pompeii marble relief installed in a wall lining the staircase leading down to the basement in a Belgium home

22 December 2023

22 December 2023

An important marble relief depicting the earthquake of 62 AD, stolen from the ruins of ancient Pompeii in Italy in...

The three-headed statue of Goddess Hecate discovered in Turkey’s Mersin

18 August 2023

18 August 2023

In the ancient city of Kelenderis in Mersin, located in the south of Turkey, the statue of the 3-headed goddess...

Archaeologists Find Mysterious 2,800-year-old Channels in Jerusalem

30 August 2023

30 August 2023

Archaeologists excavating in Jerusalem have uncovered a network of mysterious channels dating back to the days of King Joash and...

Tomb of a Roman doctor buried with unique surgical tools unearthed in Hungary

28 April 2023

28 April 2023

Hungarian archaeologists discovered the tomb of a Roman doctor 1st-century man buried with high-quality surgical tools near the city of...