3500 years ago, a student in Babylon did the inevitable and carved jokes about "beer," "intercourse," and "your mother" into a tablet. Now researchers have done the inevitable and published an elevated dissection of said jokes in a reputable journal. In recognition of the great future minds who will a millenia from now ponder "Two And A Half Men," let's give due attention to this tablet, shall we? It's pretty awesome.
Discovered by the archaeologist J.J. van Dijk in 1976, the tablet has since been lost without a trace, like so many single socks. Fortunately van Dijk left images behind, which researchers Michael Streck and Nathan Wasserman were able to analyze in a recent paper for the journal Iraq. Streck and Wasserman call the 6 riddles within "wisdom literature," or aphorisms, but the structure of them isn't far off from our modern-day jokes. Due to the tablet's less-than-perfect state, the translations are a little patchy. Still, behold, an alcohol reference:
In your mouth and your teeth, constantly stared at you, the measuring vessel of your lord. (-What is it?)
True, it's not what you'd call a knee-slapper, but "your teeth," according to Streck and Wasserman, could also be read as "your urine." And everyone knows "urine" is "funny." Moving on, a twosome concerning those twin foci of late-night talk show hosts: sex and politics. Number one:
The deflowered (girl) did not become pregnant.The undeflowered (girl) became pregnant (-What is it?)
This one is "unclear," according to Streck and Wasserman. We call it "surrealist.'
He gouged out the eye: It is not the fate of a dead man.He cut the throat: A dead man (-Who is it?)
This is apparently a reference to a Bayblonian governor's power to sentence people to death, according to Streck and W. In the comedy world, "speaking truth to power" commentary is often more direct than clever (see Louis CK's tweets about Sarah Palin), so...perhaps this is the Babylonian equivalent of a "Politically Incorrect" intro? Finally, we come to the jewel in the crown, a joke that foreshadows the greatest MTV show to star Wilmer Valderamma. Say hello to "Yo' Mama: The Streets Of Babylon."
...of your mother is by the one who has intercourse with her. What/who is it?
"Your mother"? "Intercourse"? If this isn't a precursor to the greatest take-down since McCarthy's "You know how I know you're a communist?" series, we'll eat our most ancient hat. Thank you Babylonian school system, for requiring your students to perform very important joke documentation for future generations.