Thursday, February 2, 2012
Ancient Joke Riddles
The World's Oldest Recorded Jokes
A 3,500 year old Babylon tablet was discovered in 1976 by archaeologist J.J. van Dijk during excavations in present-day Iraq. Sadly, Iraq has been through three wars since 1976, and during the 2003 invasion, the Iraq Museum in Baghdad was pillaged. the tablet disappeared, but Dijk left behind a copy of what the tablet had to say, as well as an assertion that the tablet might have been the work of a student.
Nathan Wasserman, professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Institute of Archaeology, and Michael Streck, professor with the Altorientalisches Institut and Universität Leipzig, published a translation of the tablet in the journal Iraq.
The jokes are a bit difficult to understand and are fragmentary. Also, if you do not understand the very rare Akkadian cuneiform script, then you, like me, may have to resort to filling in the pieces ourselves.
While the tablet does contain some low-brow jokes, it also contains some ancient metaphorical ones, such as this riddle:
The tower is high
it is high, but nonetheless has no shade (-What is it?)
The answer is sunlight.
Wasserman stated, "It looks like a tower, but it gives no shade, of course, because it is light itself. The answer is the proof for its own validity."
"As it is destined, so will humanity go."
Wittgenstein, in his Philosophical Investigations, said that "Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language."
It would seem that jokes free us, that they allow us to recognize our limitations without being defined by them. In other words, humor is a mechanism that detaches us from both tragedy and celebration, whereby we enter a neutral state of recognition of ourselves and others.
Wittgenstein and the members of the Vienna Circle knew that the main role of philosophers was to release us from the linguistic tangles in which we trap ourselves. While our evolution has largely been associated with technological advances, humor frees us from even our own definition of self.
No wonder we laugh...
It feels good to laugh...
Posted by Soph Laugh at 9:33 AM