Did you hear the one about the jokes inscribed on ancient Babylonian tablets?
No, that's no joke: researchers studying a 3,500-year old tablet from ancient Mesopotamia have intepreted riddles and jokes about (surprise!) sex, politics and beer.
Some of the decoded riddles are crude and sexual, while others are complex and metaphorical. One of them reveals what appears to be a bit of political humor, albeit with a dark, violent twist.
He gouged out the eye:
It is not the fate of a dead man.
He cut the throat: A dead man (-Who is it?)
The answer is a governor.
"This riddle describes the power of a governor namely to act as a judge who punishes or sentences to death," write Streck and Wasserman in the journal article.
Wasserman has seen examples in other Akkadian texts of people criticizing their leaders. "We have some interesting traces of political criticism, and [I] might say even say political anger," he said. "It could be a kind of political humor expressed in this governor riddle."
While the governor riddle reflects a sort of gallows' humor, others are much lighter.
In(?) your mouth and your teeth (or: your urine)
constantly stared at you
the measuring vessel of your lord (-What is it?)
The answer, it appears, is beer.
Previously on Neatorama: World's Oldest Joke Traced to Sumeria in 1900 B.C.