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People were kissing 4,500 years ago, scientists say

Scientists have found evidence that ancient humans kissed around 4,500 ago, which is 1,000 years earlier than previously believed.

The clay tablets found in modern Iraq as well as Syria suggest that kissing was practiced by the earliest Mesopotamian society and could have even contributed to the spreading of cold sores.

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen now believe that kissing is common in many cultures, rather than originating from a particular region.

This contradicts an earlier hypothesis that claimed the first evidence of lip-kissing by humans was found in a particular part of Southern Asia, 3,500 years ago.


Evidence comes from clay tablets inscribed in cuneiform, a writing style used by ancient Mesopotamia cultures between the Euphrates River and Tigris River in modern-day Iraq and Syria.

One of the clay models depicting an erotic scene, dating to 1800 BC, showed a couple kissing.

Dr Troels Arboll is an expert in the history of medicine of Mesopotamia from the University of Copenhagen. He said that “many thousands of these tablets have survived today, and they contain examples of how kissing was a part of romance in ancient times. It could also be a part of family relationships and friendships.

Iraq: More Information

Kissing is not a custom that was born in a single place and then spread to other places. It appears to be practiced by multiple ancient cultures for several millennia.

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Researchers have found that bonobos and other chimpanzees, the closest living relatives of humans, kiss.

Scientists said that this suggests kissing is an essential human behaviour and helps explain why it occurs across cultures.

Researchers also believe that kissing could have helped accidentally spread viruses like herpes simplex 1 (HSV-1), a virus which causes colds sores.

They found that some Mesopotamian texts “mentioned a disease with a similarity to the symptoms of herpes simplex 1 virus,” said Dr Arboll.

He added, however, that the ancient medical texts could be influenced culturally and by religious concepts. Therefore they can’t be taken at face value.

Dr Arboll stated that the team discovered some similarities between symptoms of herpes simplex and the ancient disease known as bushanu.

He said that the bu’shanu infection was primarily located in the mouth or throat. Vesicles were also present in the mouth or surrounding the mouth. This is one of the most common signs of herpes.


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