Skip to comments.Ancient Egyptians Were Jokesters
Posted on 06/03/2004 2:48:31 PM PDT by blam
Ancient Egyptians Were Jokesters
By Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News
Humor Alleviates the Hum-Drum
June 2, 2004 A recent series of lectures on ancient Egyptian humor given by a leading historian reveals that people thousands of years ago enjoyed bawdy jokes, political satire, parodies and cartoon-like art.
Related evidence found in texts, sketches, paintings, and even in temples and tombs, suggests that humor provided a social outlet and comic relief for the ancient Egyptians, particularly commoners who labored in the working classes.
The evidence was presented by Carol Andrews, a lecturer in Egyptology at Birbeck College, University of London, and former assistant keeper and senior research assistant in the Department of Egyptian Antiquities at the British Museum.
Andrews was unavailable for comment. Scott Noegel, who helped to arrange one of the lectures and is president of the American Research Center in Egypt's (ARCE) Northwest Chapter and is an associate professor in the Department of New Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Washington, told Discovery News that ancient Egyptian humor consisted of at least five basic categories.
They included political satire, scatological and vomiting humor, jokes concerning sex, slapstick, and animal-based parodies.
For satire, Noegel explained that commoners would make fun of leaders by showing pharaohs in an unflattering manner. For example, some leaders were depicted unshaven or "especially effeminate."
Drawings of defecating hyenas and drunken, vomiting party guests are among the existing examples of scatological humor, while the sex-based jokes consisted of "innuendoes and outright erotica," he said.
Slapstick comedy included drawings that showed people suffering unfortunate accidents, such as hammers falling on heads, or passengers tipping out of boats.
The ancient Egyptians had a special fondness for animal humor, given the many examples of sketches on papyrus, paintings, and other drawings, according to Noegel.
He said, "(The images show) ducks pecking at someone's buttocks, baboons and cats out of control, animals riding on top of other unlikely animals, baboons playing instruments, and animals drinking and dining."
One papyrus shows a mouse pharaoh, gallantly posed in his chariot pulled by two dogs, speeding towards a group of feline warriors. Yet another papyrus depicts a lion and an antelope playing a board game. The lion lifts a game piece as though in victory, while the antelope falls back in his chair.
"From everything that I've seen and heard, I believe that their sense of humor was very similar to our own," said Vincent Jones, who organized one of Andrews' lectures this week, and is president of the ARCE Georgia Chapter.
Jones told Discovery News that he attended another recent lecture by Guillemette Andreu, curator of the Louvre's Egyptian collection. He said Andreu presented a list of Egyptian excuses as to why people did not come into work. The top three were illness, getting married, and sorry, but I am building a house now.
"It was funny to learn that people have been creative at getting out of work for thousands of years," Jones said.
Humor was not limited to the mundane. A drawing on the wall of the temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri shows an obese "queen of Punt" in front of a tiny donkey. The inscription for the sketch reads, "The donkey that had to carry the queen." The drawing gained popularity and was copied, cartoon-style, many times from the original.
The land of Punt, which historians believe might have been the area that is now Libya or Ethiopia, held near-mythical status for Egyptians in the ancient world. Animal skins and other exotic goods came from Punt via trade routes. Historians also think that Bes, the ancient Egyptian god of humor, infants, home life, song, and dance, originated in Punt.
While the Egyptians built no temples to honor Bes, shrines for the chubby, bearded dwarf with uncombed hair were placed in many homes. The ancient Egyptians believed that anytime a baby smiled or laughed for no reason, Bes was in the room making faces.
Sort of like the dogs playing poker..
"How 'bout that Rameses, huh? Sixty kids. Where's he find time to run the country?! (Pause for laughter)"
Egyptians drop back and Punt!
Isn't it amazing, just recently drawings have been found in Washington Dc of Queen Hillery! and a tiny donkey.....
LOL, my dad had one of those hanging in his den.
Dogs Playing Poker?
They were very conservative. In fact, except for the Pharaoh thing, they would have been Republicans.
Fondness for animal humor...
I miss THE FAR SIDE
"Oh, you're a riot Osiris...a regular riot!!!!!"
Great minds think alike.
I guess you had to be there....
Playing poker against dogs is too easy to be considered fair. They tend to have good poker faces but can't control their tails wagging when they get a good hand.
In one tomb in the valley of the kings is a drawing of ET. It's the only one I saw but it was unique.
I've always had a particular fondness for the Egyptian priests who defaced the images of Akhenaten after his death.
One of these days Nefertiti...Pow! Right in the kisser!
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