April 18, 2024

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Kissing and herpes have been inextricably linked for over 4000 years

Kissing and herpes have been inextricably linked for over 4000 years


Kissing and herpes have been inextricably linked for over 4000 years.

Researchers delved into antiquity to discover when romantic kissing might have originated, and the pathogens that followed the practice from then until now, such as the herpes simplex virus.

Troels Pank Arbøll and Sophie Lund Rasmussen studied cuneiform writing from Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq and Syria, looking for records of kissing.


Kissing and herpes have been inextricably linked for over 4000 years


The couple distinguished between two types of kisses: “friendly-parental” kisses and “romantic-sexual” kisses. The former, the researchers say, is the kind of kiss mothers give their babies when they send them to school, and has been seen in humans across time and around the world.

The second is not culturally common. Sexual kissing is thought to be a way of evaluating potential partners through chemical cues in saliva or breath, leading to sex.


Recent research suggests that the first known record of a romantic kiss is in a Bronze Age manuscript from India, tentatively dated to 1500 BC. Arbøll and Rasmussen disagree, as they found in their study of Mesopotamian writing.


Cuneiform writing was first developed by the ancient Sumerians in Mesopotamia around 3500 BC. Researchers have found references to kissing in texts dating back to 2500 BC. Kissing and sex are often described together in the earliest Sumerian texts.


Arbøll and Rasmussen found clear examples that kissing is part of romantic intimacy, regardless of whether the kisser is married or unmarried.

They point to two examples in texts from around 1800 BC. In one instance, a married woman is almost led astray by a man’s kiss. In another instance, an unmarried woman took a vow to avoid kissing and having sex with a particular man.


In addition to examining the history of kissing, Arbøll and Rasmussen also investigated the behavior’s unexpected role in spreading oral disease.

With the help of paleogenomics, they turned to cuneiform again, looking for references to diseases.


The advent of paleogenomics, the reconstruction and analysis of genomic information from our ancestors, has allowed us to detect herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1), Epstein-Barr virus, and human parvovirus B19 in ancient human remains. 2022 A study in May found that ancient genomes of HSV-1 — the virus that causes cold sores — were present on the teeth of human bones from 253 B.C. to 1700 B.C.


Researchers have found records in ancient texts of a disease called bu’šānu, which is similar to HSV-1 infection. The main similarity is the symptom that accompanies this disease, bubu’tu, which may be interpreted as “vesicles”. Vesicles are thin-walled sacs filled with fluid that are a sign of HSV-1 infection when found in or around the mouth.


The researchers say their study of cuneiform scripts shows that kissing occurred much earlier than first thought, and over a much wider geographic range.

Sources from ancient Mesopotamia indicate that kissing in connection with sex, family and friendship was a common part of daily life in the ancient central Middle East from the late third millennium BC.

Furthermore, sources from Mesopotamia show romantic erotic kissing much earlier and on a wider geographic scale than references from India dating to 1500 BC, which contrasts with previous observations on the history of kissing Compared.


Kissing and oral disease have long been linked. “Evidence suggests that kissing was a common practice in ancient times and may represent a continuing influence on the transmission of orally transmitted microbes such as HSV-1,” the researchers said. “It therefore seems unlikely that kissing arose in other contemporary societies as a direct behavioral adaptation that inadvertently accelerated disease transmission.”

The study was published in the journal Science.






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