This is a millennium older than historians believed. Kissing as a sign of romantic or sexual attachment is a practice among humans that is at least 4,500 years old. This is the conclusion of an Anglo-Danish study, published this week in the journal Science.

It exposes evidence that "kissing on the mouth is attested in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt" as early as 2,500 BCE. But the practice could go back much further back in antiquity to prehistoric times, said Troels Pank Arbøll of the University of Copenhagen, who co-authored the study with Sophie Lund Rasmussen of Oxford University.

A "friendly-parent" or "romantic-sexual" kiss

A specialist in the ancient Middle East, he is surprised to read in scientific publications that the human romantic kiss would be attested by an Indian source from 1,500 BC. "I knew there was older evidence in ancient Mesopotamia," explained Troels Pank Arbøll, an expert on cuneiform writing — an ancient Mesopotamian script — on ancient clay tablets.

In the thousands of cuneiform texts available, the two researchers found few references to the romantic kiss. But enough to be able to say "that there are clear examples showing that kissing was common in ancient times". Specialists in the subject distinguish between the "amicalo-parental" kiss and the "romantic-sexual" kiss. While the former seems universal across ages and geographies, the latter "is not culturally universal."

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