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An ancient joke book has been found, translated and… lost?

February 7th, 2012 by Marc Comments

Some things never change it seems, as apparently, some 3,500 years ago in Mesopotamia people were laughing at crude jokes, politicians and alcohol. Sounds like a typical friday night, really.

A tablet from Mesopotamia, in present day Iraq, reveals that mankind has always, it seems, had a passion for riddles and giggles, although they may be mostly lost on modern readers – we’ve listed the riddles below for you to have a gander.

 Michael Streck of the University of Leipzig and Nathan Wasserman of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem are the scholars who have transribed the text, according to The Daily Mail, which has large parts missing, and seems to have been carved by an inexperienced scribe who they suspect might have lived near the Persian Gulf.

However, the story is fascinating, but here’s the punchline: the tablet appears to be lost as the museum the tablet was housed in was pillaged during the 2003 invasion.

The tablet was originally transcribed and published in 1976 by J J Van Dijk and the researchers used his transcript for their translation. They whereabouts of the tablet is unknown, but due to its small, insignificant appearance, it is believed it may have been overlooked: ‘We tried to figure out where the tablet is now,’ Wasserman said, in an interview with LiveScience, ‘But I don’t know. I very much hope that it is still there.’

The riddles & the answers

‘In your mouth and your teeth (or urine). Constantly stared at you. The measuring vessel of your lord. What is it?’
Answer: Beer

‘The tower is high, but it has no shade.’
Answer: Light  (The riddle refers to a shaft of light hitting the ground)

He gouged out the eye. It is not the fate of a dead man. He cut the throat: A dead man – who is it?’
Answer: A governor (the joke here could be that a governor is portrayed as executioner)

The two rudest riddles have missing answers – or ones that don’t make sense.

‘The deflowered girl did not become pregnant. The undeflowered girl became pregnant. What is it?’
Answer: Auxiliary forces (The term for a group of soldiers is puzzling here, says Wasserman)

… of your mother, is by the one who has intercourse with her. Who is it?’
Answer: Perhaps thankfully, this answer has been lost.

It’s a regular laughathon, isn’t it?

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Marc is a self-confessed nerd. Ever since seeing Star Wars for the first time around 1979 he’s been an unapologetic fan of the Wars and still believes, with Clone Wars and now Underworld, we are yet to see the best Star Wars. He’s a dad of two who now doesn’t have the time (or money) to collect the amount of toys, comics, movies and books he once did, much to the relief of his long-suffering wife. In the real world he’s a graphic designer. He started Following the Nerd because he was tired of searching a million sites every day for all the best news that he loves and decided to create one place where you can go to get the whole lot. Secretly he longs to be sitting in the cockpit of his YT-1300 Corellian Transport ship with his co-pilot Chewie, roaming the universe, waiting for his next big adventure, but feels just at home watching cartoons with his kids….

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