Images of love kisses 4500 years old found in Mesopotamia (photo)

Ihor Romanko

Evidence found in Mesopotamia that people kissed as early as 4500 years ago

Kissing is a habit that has accompanied humanity for many centuries. Although the exact date of the first kiss is not known, the first written records of kissing date back to about 4,500 years ago in Mesopotamia.

Since then, kisses have performed a variety of functions that exist to this day: they can be part of sexual intercourse, an expression of affection, respect, and even have religious or superstitious significance. According to some anthropologists, kissing may have originally served the function of finding the perfect partner through the chemical signals transmitted during the act.

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Cheryl Kirschenbaum, author of The Science of Kissing, has studied the research of several anthropologists who attribute the first mention of kissing to Hindu civilisation in India around 3500 years ago. From there, the practice spread to Ancient Greece in the time of Alexander the Great.

In the sacred texts of Hinduism, such as the Atharvaveda, there is no specific word for kissing, but phrases have been found that could be translated as "sniffing the lips" or "licking the young face". Some poems, such as the Mahabharata, describe a kiss as a bringing of the lips together. However, these texts are later than the Kama Sutra.

The reasons why we kiss were the subject of a study by two Danish scientists. Their article, published in the journal Science, states that the first mention of a kiss appeared in Sumerian texts belonging to a civilisation that developed in the territory of modern Iraq. One of the authors of the article, Professor Troels Pank Arbell of the University of Copenhagen, who is an expert in the study of ancient civilisations of the Middle East, notes that the first textual documents that testify to romantic and sexual kisses appeared around 2500 BC in ancient Mesopotamia.

Writing itself was discovered in this region about 5200 years ago and was used until 80 years after our era. During this period, there were many textual sources, although they were used mainly for administrative purposes, which means that other types of texts gradually appeared. It took us 700 years to find a text relating to kissing.

The first references to kissing are found in mythological stories about the gods. Later, in particular at the beginning of the second millennium BC, we find clear references to kissing in private documents. The first risqué reference to a kiss appears in a mythological text called the Barton Cylinder, which was written in Sumerian between 4350 and 4500 years ago. The following paragraph can be found in this text:

"These days are really long gone. These nights are really distant nights. These years, of course, are distant years. A storm was raging, lightning was flashing. A storm was raging in the sacred area of the city of Nippur, and lightning was flashing. The sky was talking to the Earth. The Earth was talking to the sky. He had sexual relations with the goddess "Great-Good Lady Sky", the elder sister of the god Enlil, Ninhursag. He kissed her. He fertilised her womb with seven twins."

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This text was written millennia before the sacred Hindu verses that speak of joining the lips. In later tablets of Sumerian texts, there are references to different types of kissing. For example, Akkadian tablets from a civilisation north of Sumer contain passages about kissing the feet or the ground one has stepped on as a sign of respect or obedience to parents or priests, but other kisses are mentioned as a manifestation of sexual desire.

Researchers Troels Punk Arbell and Sophie Lund Rasmussen have conducted a study on the origins of kissing. They note that the first references to kissing appeared in Sumerian texts from ancient Mesopotamia. In their article in the journal Science, they show that this form of physical expression of intimacy was practiced over a large geographical area in ancient times.

The researchers also note that other species closest to humans, such as bonobos and chimpanzees, also show similar behaviours. This suggests that kissing may be common not only to humans but also to other species.

According to evolutionary anthropologists, romantic-sexual kissing may have arisen as a means of evaluating a potential partner and contribute to bonding and sexual arousal. The chemical signals transmitted through saliva and breath can trigger feelings of attachment and desire.

Kissing also helps to establish a bond between two people, promoting feelings of security and love. Chemical signals, such as oxytocin and dopamine, influence our emotions and behaviour.

Recall that we have already written about a unique discovery in a cave in Italy.

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