Oldest joke
Sumerian fart proverb
3900 year(s)
Not Applicable ()

According to research led by Dr Paul McDonald, Senior lecturer at the University of Wolverhampton’s School of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences, the oldest example of recorded humour dates back to at least 1900 BC and is a Sumerian proverb warning new husbands about their flatulent brides: "Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap." The joke, which follows a structure, was found on tablets from the Old Babylonian period but may date back as far as 2,300 BC.

Dr McDonald and his team were asked to carry out this research for the TV channel Dave in 2008. The team spent two months researching jokes – defined by the study as "having a clear set-up and punch line structure" – to produce the Dave Historical Humour Study. "This definition enabled the team to plot the history of the joke as far back as 1900 BC," said Dr McDonald. "The results provide a unique and compelling insight into how jokes have evolved over the years, both globally and in the UK."