03 March 2012

Yo mama so fat...

..when she sits around the ziggurat, she really sits around the ziggurat!

Assyriology has made it to late night television! On Thursday night Stephen Colbert had an amazingly funny segment on a newly translated cuneiform tablet that was published by Streck and Wasserman in the latest version of the journal Iraq ("Dialogues and riddles: Three Old Babylonian wisdom texts"). Check out the article here.

The jokes the tablet contains (scholars like to call them 'riddles') are dubbed by Colbert as the world's oldest 'yo mama' jokes, and he might not be that far off. This tablet, dating to around 1700 B.C., comes well before the Philogelos ("Laughter Lover" in Greek), a joke book from the 3rd or 4th century discussed in Discovery News and The Guardian a few years ago.

Of course none of this is surprising to us, right? As long as humans have been talking we have been singing, telling stories, and making fun word play including riddles and jokes. It is all part of how humans communicate, and we have been doing it for millennia.

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