The Kiss Timeline

Nowadays, kissing on the lips is a common act among people who have a stronger and closer affective relationship. However, this was not always so. Anthropologist Vaughn Bryant of Texas A&M University has done a historical survey to try to trace a kiss timeline - which was revealed to Discovery News.

At the beginning of everything

Researchers believe that the action of touching one mouth to another emerged millions of years ago with the attempt of mammals to pass food to their offspring. From this observation, given that we are from this class of animals, the study points out that humans also followed this path, that is, on occasion, mothers tried to feed their children directly mouth to mouth.

The first clues

Although the actual origin of the kiss is still a mystery, historians have found evidence of the practice in India. Four texts from the Vedic Sanskrit literature, an ancient language of the country, dating from 1500 BC describe that Indians had the habit of rubbing and touching their noses. Eventually, the lips touched, and some found it pleasurable.

Image source: Chore Bagan Art Studio / Wikimedia Commons

And that is not all. A Mahabharata poem written 500 years later contains clear references to what the kiss would be: "She put her mouth to mine and made a noise and it produced pleasure in me." In addition, the Kama Sutra, a classic erotic work written in the early 5th century AD, has descriptions of kissing techniques.

Expanding Horizons

Kissing would have crossed India's borders in 326 BC, thanks to the armies of Alexander the Great. The soldiers learned the practice from the Indians and took it back to their homes. With the death of the renowned conqueror, his troops were divided and scattered to various parts of the Middle East, and with them the kiss.

The popularization of the kiss

The Romans were largely responsible for the popularization of kissing, taking it to much of Europe and parts of North Africa. “They were devoted kiss missionaries, ” says Bryant.

Image source: Jastrow / Wikimedia Commons

For them the kiss was not just a "kiss." The Romans had different ways of kissing. Osculum was a way of showing friendship, usually being delivered to the face. There was also the basium, a more sensual kind of kiss that the mouths already touched. Finally, the savium consisted of a more passionate kiss, which later became known as a "French kiss" or a "tongue kiss".

The kiss was taken so seriously in ancient Rome that laws were created for its practice. For example, “if a virgin girl was passionately kissed in public, she had the right to demand marriage from the man who kissed her, ” reports the anthropologist.


In the Middle Ages, kissing gained other meanings. He became elitized, and only people of the same social class could kiss on the lips. The kiss also became a synonym of submission, so much so that servants were forced to kiss hands, feet, and even the floor of their "bosses."

Image source: Master Of The Prayer Books / Wikimedia Commons

Since many people at that time could not read or write, the kiss was still used to seal contracts. In the same period, the Catholic Church began to worry about the kiss, fearing that it would encourage carnal acts. This is why Pope Clement V, during the Council of Vienne between 1311 and 1312, prohibited the so-called “holy kiss” that was practiced during religious events - today this gesture of peace is externalized with a handshake.

The decay

According to Vaughn Bryant's research, kissing began to weaken in the mid-1600s in Europe, when other gestures were adopted as a sign of respect and admiration, including classic hat reverences. To make matters worse, with the emergence of the Great Plague of London in 1665, a minor outbreak of the Black Death, people became afraid to kiss and transmit the disease.

Modern times"

In 1896, the movie titled "The Kiss" first showed two actors, May Irwin and John Rice, kissing repeatedly. Obviously, the scene caused a scandal for the time, for after centuries of decay the kiss had become extremely intimate. Nowadays, the kiss has gained some freedom again, although it is still a sign of disrespect in some countries when done in public and is usually only used by couples in love.


Do you wonder how many different types of kiss there are? German neuroscientist Onur Güntürkün conducted a nearly two-year study in which he toured parks, beaches, train stations, airports, and other public places watching people kiss. The researcher completed and recorded 124 scientifically valid kisses.