Lip kissing is an act that’s so natural and common in many present-day societies it is easily taken for granted. But it’s not actually clear whether people have always been kissing, or whether its origins lie in the relatively recent past.
It turns out that the history and causes for kissing are more complex than anticipated. In an article published in the journal Science, we analyzed substantial amounts of overlooked evidence that challenge current beliefs that the first record of romantic-sexual kissing is from India around 1500BC.
Instead, lip kissing is documented in ancient Mesopotamia – present-day Iraq and Syria – from at least 2500BC onwards. This basically means that the recorded history of romantic-sexual kissing is at least 1,000 years older than the previous earliest known date.
Why do we kiss?
Evolutionary anthropologists have suggested that lip kissing evolved to evaluate a potential mate’s suitability, through chemical cues communicated in saliva or breath. Other proposed purposes for kissing include bringing about feelings of attachment and facilitating sexual arousal.
Lip kissing is also seen in our closest living relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos. This suggests that the behavior could be much older than our current earliest evidence in humans.
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