Science & Tech

Archaeologists discover evidence of first human kiss

Archaeologists discover evidence of first human kiss

Ancient clay tablets show evidence of kissing from thousands of years ago

University of Copenhagen / PA

The first ever recorded kiss happened 4,500 years ago, scientists have suggested, after discovering evidence which puts the event 1,000 years earlier than previously thought.

A study published in the journal Science points to evidence of kissing in the ancient Middle East, in early Mesopotamian societies, documented in ancient texts from 2,500 BCE.

The researchers also pointed to evidence that the early spread of orally transmitted diseases such as cold sores could have been down to the ancient kissing.

Previous hypotheses have suggested that the earliest evidence of kissing came from ancient India in 1,500 BCE, but the ancient Mesopotamian texts cited by the latest study suggests that it was a romantic practice in the Middle East.

Dr Troels Pank Arbøll, an expert on the history of medicine in Mesopotamia at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, said: “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 [wedge-shaped marks] 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.

“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 practised in multiple ancient cultures over several millennia.”

Separate research has shown that bonobos also kiss with romantic intentions, while chimpanzees have been seen smooching platonically.

Scientists have said these practices, from our closest living biological relations, show humans have probably been doing it for a long time.

The new study also says kissing probably played a role in spreading the type of herpes virus which causes cold sores and diphtheria, a contagious bacterial infection.

It is commonly thought that an ancient disease described in old texts, could be the very same infection.

Dr Arbøll 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.”

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