Who kissed first? Archaeology has an answer.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Friday, April 12, 2024

Who kissed first? Archaeology has an answer.
A photo provided by the University of Pennsylvania shows the Barton Cylinder, excavated in the ancient Sumerian city of Nippur in 1899 and dating to around 2400 B.C. The researchers Sophie Lund Rasmussen andTroels Pank Arboll propose that the narrative etched into the Barton Cylinder includes the earliest known account of kissing. (The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology via The New York Times)

NEW YORK, NY.- This is a love story: During the spring of 2008, long before they produced evidence of humanity’s first recorded kiss, Sophie Lund Rasmussen and Troels Pank Arboll clasped lips in their first good-night snog. They met a week earlier at a pub near the University of Copenhagen, where both were undergraduates. “I had asked my cousin if he knew any nice single guys with long hair and long beards,” Rasmussen said. “And he said, ‘Sure, I’ll introduce you to one.’”

Arboll, in turn, had been looking for a partner who shared his interest in Assyriology, the study of Mesopotamian languages and the sources written in them. “Not many people know what an Assyriologist actually does,” he told her.

“I do,” said Rasmussen, who had taken some of the same classes.

Arboll, now a professor of Assyriology at the university, said, “When I heard that, I knew she was a keeper.”

Three years later, they wed. Rasmussen is now an ecologist at the University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit and Aalborg University in Denmark.

One night over dinner in 2022, the couple discussed — as scientists in love do — a new genetic study that linked modern herpes variants to mouth-to-mouth kissing in the Bronze Age, roughly 3300 B.C. to 1200 B.C. In the paper’s supplementary materials, a brief history of kissing pinpointed South Asia as the place of origin and traced the first literary buss to 1500 B.C., when Vedic Sanskrit manuscripts were being transcribed from oral history.

The researcher, at the University of Cambridge, suggested that the custom — a lip-kissing precursor that involved rubbing and pressing noses together — developed into hard-core smooching. She noted that by 300 B.C. — about when the Indian how-to sex manual, the Kama Sutra, was published — kissing had spread to the Mediterranean with the return of Alexander the Great’s troops from Northern India.

But the couple believed that wasn’t its start. “I told Sophie that I knew of even older accounts written in both the Sumerian and Akkadian languages,” said Arboll, whose expertise is ancient accounts of medical diagnoses, prescriptions and healing rituals.

“So after dinner, we double-checked,” said Rasmussen, who specializes in hedgehogs.

They consulted cuneiform texts on clay tablets from Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq and Syria) and Egypt for clear examples of intimate kissing. Their investigation resulted in a commentary recently published in the journal Science that pushed back the earliest documentation of kissing by 1,000 years and upended the hypothesis that people from a specific region were the first to kiss and tell.

The Danish husband-and-wife team maintain that since at least the late third millennium B.C., kissing was a widespread and well-established part of romance in the Middle East. “Kissing was not a custom that emerged abruptly in a single point of origin,” Arboll said. “Instead, it seems to have been common across a range of cultures.”

Etched in Clay

Arboll and Rasmussen proposed that the earliest account of kissing was etched into the Barton Cylinder, a clay tablet that dates to around 2400 B.C. The object was unearthed in the ancient Sumerian city of Nippur in 1899 and named after George Barton, a professor of Semitic languages at Bryn Mawr College, who translated it 19 years later. It is housed in the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, where, from 1922 to 1931, Barton taught Semitic languages and the history of religion.

The artifact’s narrative involves the Sumerian creation myth and problems with food supplies in Nippur, the original religious capital of Babylonia and the seat of worship for Enlil, ruler of the cosmos. In the second column of text, a male divinity, possibly Enlil, has sex with the mother goddess Ninhursag, the sister of Enlil, and then kisses her. Amid this godly frolicking, the male divinity plants the seed of “seven twins of deities” in her womb.

Gonzalo Rubio, an Assyriologist at Penn State University, said the most compelling part of the story is the sequence of events. “In the portrayals of the act of kissing in Sumerian literature, the subjects have sexual intercourse first and only afterward do they kiss,” he said. “It is afterplay of some sort, rather than foreplay.”

Although the existence of Mesopotamian kissing records may be earthshaking to philematologists, the academics who study the decidedly sober science of the kiss, it is old news to Mesopotamian scholars. “In the small, specialized field of Assyriology, there is a tendency to focus inward and not so much outward,” Rasmussen said. “As much as Assyriologists like to argue among themselves, they don’t really talk to other people.”

Rubio, who was not involved in the project, praised Arboll and Rasmussen for effectively rewriting the history of kissing. “They aimed to set the record straight and came to correct such a reductionist approach to human behavior,” he said.

Was a Sumerian kiss just a kiss? Arboll said that in the earliest passages, kissing was described in relation to erotic acts, with the lips as the locus. In Akkadian, a Semitic language related to Hebrew and Arabic of today, he and Rasmussen found that references to kissing fell into roughly two categories: the “friendly-parental” and the “romantic-sexual.”

The former is a display of familial affection, respect or submission, such as when a royal subject kisses the feet of a ruler. “The sexual-romantic kiss occurs in relation to a sexual act or in relation to love,” Arboll said. Unlike the friendly-parental variety, it is not culturally universal.

“Lip-kissing has been observed in chimpanzees and bonobos, our closest living relatives,” Rasmussen added. While the platonic chimp kiss determines compatibility, bonobos canoodle for sexual arousal — their erotic contact ranges from oral sex to intense tongue-twisting. “The kissing practices of these primates hints at something fundamental that goes way back in human history,” Rasmussen said.

Cue the Chemistry

Sumerian written history goes back to the 27th century B.C. and more or less ends a millennium later when the civilization collapsed after an invasion by the Elamites. It was left to the republicans of ancient Rome, for whom bussing was both a science and a high art, to formulate a hierarchy of kisses and provide each type with an appropriate name. The osculum, a chaste but affectionate peck on the hand or cheek, was used as a greeting; the basium was a closed-mouth, lip-on-lip affair between close friends; the savium was the full works — what we now call a French kiss.

In ancient Mesopotamia, Rasmussen said, smooching outside marriage was discouraged. He came across one text, from 1800 B.C., that detailed how a married woman was almost led astray by a soul kiss from a male admirer. Necking with someone who was not supposed to be sexually active was regarded as a crime on par with adultery. “Kissing a priestess was believed to deprive the kisser of the ability to speak,” Arboll said.

For Romans of the imperial era, kissing a lover in public was also considered indecent. It may also have been considered a health risk. In the first century A.D., the emperor Tiberius tried to outlaw kissing at state functions, likely because of an epidemic of cold sores. Arboll noted that a substantial corpus of medical writings from Mesopotamia mentioned an ailment called bu’shanu, whose symptoms resembled those of the herpes simplex infections. “The disease appeared mainly in and around the mouth and pharynx,” Arboll said. “Its name derives from a verb meaning ‘to stink.’”

In “The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us,” Sheril Kirshenbaum writes about the chemistry of attraction, how a kiss locks two people together in an exchange of colors, tastes and textures. Rasmussen believes that kissing evolved as a way of sizing up potential partners through their scent.

“With both humans and hedgehogs, it’s all about finding the strongest, healthiest mate to produce the strongest, healthiest offspring,” she said. “So you unconsciously evaluate a person’s suitability through chemical cues like bad breath, which might indicate bad teeth, which might indicate bad genes.”

Rasmussen recalled that first tender kiss with Arboll, which bore the aroma of the hibiscus tea she had just fixed him. What is a kiss? In her memory, it echoed a line from poet Robert Herrick: “The sure, sweet cement, glue and lime of love.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Today's News

February 14, 2024

Brazilian police seek husband in murder of noted art dealer

Who kissed first? Archaeology has an answer.

Sanford Wurmfeld debuts 'Corona Variations' new compositions and palettes in most recent series of paintings

Untangling the pasts of slavery, colonialism and art

Rare poster auction presents 410 revered lithographs and maquettes

Twyla Tharp: 'You Dig Down, You Settle in, You Don't Stop'

From ancient Egypt, 'Heads of Secrets' Find an afterlife

Barry Art Museum appoints Sara Woodbury as its first permanent curator

Over 30 works will be on display in 'William Crozier: Nature into Abstraction', some not been seen for a generation

Missoula Art Museum presents works by renowned artists collected by Kim and Ruth Reineking

Water and Life dives into the depths of the sea and sails to busy ports

'Continuity: Cahuilla Basket Weavers and their Legacies' reflects relationships Cahuilla people have with traditions

AstaGuru's upcoming 'Dimensions Defined' auction offers a treasure trove of unique works

America's first silver dollar helps mint more than $7 million for Heritage's Long Beach Expo US Coins Auction

No deposits this year at Love Bank, a museum of affection hit by fire

Second City expands to the first city and sets up shop in Brooklyn

Review: In 'Self Portraits (Deluxe),' a provocateur instigates reflection

'Hills of California' review: A stage mother's unhappy brood

Qatar Museums to present first survey exhibition of artworks by Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist

Messums has announced representation of estate of pre-eminent abstract painter John Golding

'Retablos: The Art of Devotion' online auction features over 230 lots from Mexico and South America

Antiques dealer's collection of offbeat and extraordinary objects to be auctioned in UK

Kali Malone studied farming. Fate brought her to avant-garde music.

Cecilia Gentili, transgender activist, performer and author, dies at 52

A 'Mother' is mourned by the queer New Yorkers she left behind

Exploring the Intertwined Worlds of Art and Language Transformation

Yoga Studio Essentials: Designing the Perfect Space for Peace and Practice

Navigating Career Transitions with Strategies for Financial Stability

How Much Can I Expect to Make from My Personal Injury Case?

Bodo.com: The Address for Experience Gifting in Turkey

Breaking the Mold: Malcolm Xavier's Revolutionary Path from Dropout to Digital Art Dynamo

The Imperative Role of Art in Shaping Societal Perspectives

Vaping in Visual Culture: How E-Cigarettes Influence Modern Art

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

sa gaming free credit
Truck Accident Attorneys
Accident Attorneys

Royalville Communications, Inc

ignaciovillarreal.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site Parroquia Natividad del Señor
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful