In Brief

Was the Oldest Smiley Found on a 3,700-Year-Old Jug?

A new archeological discovery may suggest the first known “smiley” is thousands of years older than previously thought.

Painted flask from 1700 BCE found in a burial under a house in area A East, Karkemish (photo courtesy Nicolò Marchetti)

Archaeologists in southern Turkey have dug up an ancient precedent to the Kool-Aid Man. Recent excavations at the ancient Hittite city of Karkemish have revealed a bulbous pitcher decorated with a faint smiley face, as Anadolu Agency first reported. At 3,700 years old, the grin predates by a long shot what scientists in Slovakia had previously dubbed the world’s oldest smiley face, a 17th-century drawing on a legal document.

As head researcher Nicolò Marchetti put it, “We have probably found the oldest smiley emoji. We do not know with which purpose the craftsmen drew this symbol on the pitcher, but we call it a smile.”

Marchetti, an associate professor at the University of Bologna, has been leading the seven-year long excavations at Karkemish, which today lies along the border between Turkey and Syria. The short-necked pitcher is one of the most interesting artifacts found so far at the site, which has also yielded a number of urns, pots, and vases. Found in a burial chamber beneath a house, the unusual vessel was once used for drinking sweet sherbet. It will eventually go on view at the nearby Gaziantep Museum of Archaeology — so yes, you’ll be able to get a selfie of yourself smiling with the one-of-a-kind, jolly jug.

“The smiling face is undoubtedly there and has no parallels in ancient ceramic art,” Marchetti told Hyperallergic. “As for the interpretation, you may certainly choose your own.”

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