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Body Language Signs From Ancient Times Still Used Today

The handshake is a form of body language that dates back to ancient times, most likely to ancient Greece. Credit: Flickr / Amtec Photos CC BY 2.0

People have used body language to communicate since time immemorial. Our early relatives expressed themselves through gestures, facial expressions, body movements, and sounds.

Later on, the sounds turned into spoken language and, much later after that, into written words. Nonetheless, to this day, some of the nonverbal ways we communicate have direct connections to our ancient history, according to Psychology Today.

Below are five body language secrets from the ancients.

1. Eyebrow Flash

Discovered by researcher Irenaus Eibl-Eibesfeldt years ago, the eyebrow flash is a quick lift of the eyebrows when we spot someone. It’s like a simple, early way of saying hello. Over time, this greeting has transformed into a head toss, especially common among young men.

2. Handshake

The handshake has its roots in the days of our ancestors, who were often at war. By offering an open hand, a person showed they weren’t carrying a weapon, and the other person responded in a similar manner. This evolved into the handshake as we know it today.

In ancient Rome, it went even further—a mutual grip of the arms symbolized friendship and loyalty.

3. Begging

In the early days, a basic way of asking for something was by extending an open palm. This gesture evolved from the simple act of requesting of someone that food be shared.

You can spot a similar gesture for begging in chimpanzees. Namely, when one has food, others might beg, hoping the owner will share, as reported by Psychology Today.

4. Belladonna and Pupil Dilation

Research on nonverbal communication has found that women with dilated pupils are often considered more attractive. In a simple experiment, people rated the attractiveness of women with regularly dilated pupils higher than those with larger pupils. Our ancestors were on to this long before experiments began.

During the Renaissance, women had a trick up their sleeves. They used drops from the poisonous nightshade plant called Belladonna in their eyes. This caused their pupils to dilate, making them appear more alluring. However, this beauty enhancement came at a cost. Regular use of Belladonna, meaning “beautiful woman,” could lead to vision problems, according to Psychology Today.

5. Kissing

The origins of kissing aren’t entirely straightforward. On the one hand, mouth-to-mouth kissing and saliva swapping can potentially spread diseases. However, our ancient ancestors might have used kissing to determine a potential mate’s health status.

Regardless, kissing often stirs up feelings of sexual arousal and serves as a clear signal of desire. In non-romantic relationships, a kiss on the cheek can be a warm and intimate way to greet someone, according to Psychology Today.

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