Revealed: The world's oldest joke

...and, yes, it's about farts

The world’s oldest recorded joke has been discovered, dating back almost 4,000 years.

And it may come as no surprise that the gag, dating from the ancient Sumerians of 1900 BC, is a fart joke.

The Sumerians, who lived in what is now southern Iraq, had the saying: ‘Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap.’

It may not be a side-splitter, but it did head the list of the 10 oldest joke list published by the University of Wolverhampton today.

A 1600 BC hieroglyphic gag about a pharaoh, believed to be King Snofru, comes second: ‘How do you entertain a bored pharaoh? You sail a boatload of young women dressed only in fishing nets down the Nile and urge the pharaoh to go catch a fish.’

The oldest Anglo-Saxonh joke dates from the 10th Century and is a knob gag: ‘What hangs at a man’s thigh and wants to poke the hole that it’s often poked before? Answer: A key.’

Senior lecturer Dr Paul McDonald, who compiled the report said: ‘ Jokes have varied over the years, with some taking the question and answer format while others are witty proverbs or riddles.

‘What they all share however, is a willingness to deal with taboos and a degree of rebellion. Modern puns, Essex girl jokes and toilet humour can all be traced back to the very earliest jokes identified in this research.’

The study was commissioned by television channel Dave.

Published: 31 Jul 2008

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