At 4,000 years old, this smiley face emoji on an ancient jug may just be the oldest emoji in the world.
Turkish and Italian archaeologists have been excavating the ruins of an ancient southern Turkey city called Karkemish for seven summers. Karkemish had once been inhabited by Hittites, an ancient Anatolian people. They used to rule an empire that covered what are now Greece, Egypt, Turkey, and Syria.
The archaeologists found quite a number of artifacts from the site over the years. They found a 10th-century slab of basalt with a carving of two griffins, seventh-century tablets that tell of a loan of 20 pounds of silver, and an assortment of pottery that had different uses.
One jug, however, stood out from the rest. It was, for all intents and purposes, an ordinary jug. However, it revealed an interesting feature once the research team took it to the lab for restoration.
A Smiley Face Emoji in a Surprising Place
Researchers discovered that the jug had originally been off-white and had stored a sweet drink akin to sherbet. When the restoration work began, it was then that archaeologists found that the jug had what looked like a smiley face drawn on its body.
So is this the oldest smiley face emoji in the world? Archaeologists can't say for sure. They haven't figured out what the drawing meant. They're sure, however, that the smiley face was drawn intentionally. This, of course, makes it all the more intriguing. Did the person who drew the smiley on the jug intend to depict an actual smile?
While the smiley face jug is certainly one of the more interesting pieces from the excavation, there are also a number of other artifacts that tell stories of what the ancient city was like.
Karkemish, in its heyday, had been comparable to history's greatest cities—cities like Jerusalem, Petra, or Troy. It was also the site of a biblical battle between the armies of Egypt and Assyria against the armies of Babylonia. Several civilizations other than the Hittites—namely the Mitanni, the Neo-Assyrians, and the Roman Empire—had also occupied the city at different points in history.
If you're interested in checking out the world's oldest smiley face emoji in person, visit Gaziantep Museum of Archaeology.
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