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A weekly show where we endeavor to answer one of your big questions. This week, Anish Sharma asks, "Why is the heart associated with love?"
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Hi, I'm Craig. In many cultures, I'm associated with love. And this is Mental Floss on Youtube. Today I'm gonna answer Anish Sharma's big question, "Why is the heart associated with love?"

Well, Anish, I'm not sure if you mean the human heart or the heart symbol. So I'm gonna tell you a little bit about why both are associated with love. Anyway, it's becoming a pattern here on Big Question to say, "We don't really know, but we know it's really old, and it evolved." And yet again, it's true. Let's get started. [whispered] I love you.

[intro music]

The shape has been uncovered in pictograms drawn by early humans living in modern day Europe. But we don't know what it meant to the people back then.

Moving later in time, many different cultures started to view the human heart as the center of emotion and the soul. The ancient Egyptians associated the heart with your moral compass. The ancient Greeks thought it contained the human soul, in addition to emitting actual body heat. The Teotihuacans from ancient Mexico believed the body contained various spiritual forces, and the one in the heart was the key to being alive.

Throughout all this, what we now know as the heart shape persists. It can be found in ancient artwork, but mostly used to represent things like fig leaves or ivy.

Then, people started to draw connections between the human heart and love. One of the earliest examples of it clearly representing love in art can be found in the 13th century French Romance manuscript, known as Roman de la Poire.

In the manuscript, there is a picture of a man holding what looks like a human heart and offering it to a woman...romantic. The heart is definitely acting as a symbol of love here, but its shape is more realistic than the modern heart symbol. It evolved in art, becoming less and less realistic throughout the next few centuries. And less icky.

By 1400, the modern heart shape had become a big part of Christian art. In 1530, the Luther seal, a symbol for Lutheranism, was developed with a heart shape in the center.

The symbol wasn't just associated with religion and love, though. During the medieval times, the heart shape started popping up on things like playing cards and tapestries. Then, in 17th century England, Valentine's Day started to become a thing. People started just by sending notes, but eventually the heart symbol became associated with Valentine's Day, and it was definitely here to stay.

[outro music]

I love that you're watching Mental Floss on Youtube, which is made with the help of these lovely people. If you have a big question of your own that you would love answered, love it below in the comments. Love for you to pop by next week. Ding!