Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ancient Joke Riddles

The World's Oldest Recorded Jokes
Ever Found

A 3,500 year old Babylon tablet was discovered in 1976 by archaeologist J.J. van Dijk during excavations in present-day IraqSadly, 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 Universit├Ąt 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...

1 comment:

Dr. Lee Martin said...

This is so very very cool, thought-provoking & most interesting!
I really like it, Sophy, that you cover humor from all possible angles!
You never cease to amaze me!
Keep up the great work!!!
Big smiles,