Valentine's Day kisses continue odd human tradition

Mon Feb 13, 2012 6:37pm EST
 
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By Jim Forsyth

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - A kiss may be just a kiss, but when sweethearts pucker up on Valentine's Day, they will be participating in one of the most bizarre and unlikely of human activities.

Experts say kissing evolved from sniffing, which people did centuries ago as a way of learning about each other.

"At some point, they slipped and ended up on the lips, and they thought that was a lot better," said Vaughn Bryant, an anthropologist at Texas A&M University and an authority on the evolution of human kissing. "You got a lot more bang for your buck."

For most of early human history, smell was more important than any other sense for human relationships, said Sheril Kirshenbaum, author of "The Science of Kissing." People would use smell to determine a person's mood, their health and their social status, she said.

"There were a lot of sniff greetings," said Kirshenbaum, director of the Project on Energy Communication at the University of Texas. "They would brush the nose across the face, because there are scent glands on our faces, and over time the brush of the face became a brush of the lips, and the social greeting was born that way."

Kissing as a romantic sense of expression is believed to have begun in India, where an epic poem called the Mahabharata - believed to have been written about 1000 BCE - included history's first recognizable descriptions of romantic kissing.

"She set her mouth to my mouth and made a noise that produced pleasure in me," the poem said.

Historians believe that at the time, romantic kissing was unknown in the rest of the world, and that it was brought to Europe by Alexander the Great.   Continued...

 
<p>Britain's Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, kiss as they stand on the balcony at Buckingham Palace with other members of the Royal Family, after their wedding in Westminster Abbey, in central London in this April 29, 2011 file photograph. REUTERS/Darren Staples/Files</p>