Archaeologist Reveals Ancient Roman Tantalus Bowl May Be First Artifact Discovered That Is A Practical Joke

This 4th century practical joke bowl would have doused unsuspecting drinkers with copious amounts of wine.

British Museum archaeologist reveals Roman Tantalus bowl is first practical joke.
Sean Gallup / Getty Images

This 4th century practical joke bowl would have doused unsuspecting drinkers with copious amounts of wine.

For the very first time, an artifact has been discovered which is believed to have been the world’s very first practical joke, and it comes in the form of the 4th century Roman Tantalus bowl.

This bowl was originally recovered in Vinkovci, Croatia in the Spring of 2012, but after much investigation, British Museum archaeologist Dr. Richard Hobbs, who is the Weston Curator of Roman Britain, has revealed that this ancient Tantalus bowl was almost certainly the invention of Romans who had a profoundly great sense of humor.

“This is the earliest example of a physical practical joke, certainly for the Romans.”

Perhaps the reason why nobody noticed the intricate and sneaky design of the Tantalus bowl in 2012 is because at first glance, the silver artifact appears to be an ordinary object with which to drink from.

However, after further inspection, it is clear that this is no ordinary mug. This is because there is a very special pipe that has been placed inside the bowl that causes any liquid poured in it to begin draining once the liquid is poured into the bowl at just the right height.

As Dr. Hobbs explained, innocent guests would have received a surprising shock when attempting to drink from this Roman Tantalus bowl, according to the Daily Mail.

“You can imagine this being passed to an unsuspecting dinner party guest who likes their drink and them holding it and telling a slave to fill it up with wine, and at some point it pouring all over them.”

Dr. Richard Hobbs has speculated that it’s possible that this Tantalus bowl may have once been owned by Valentinian I or his brother, Valens, as they both hailed from Vinkovci where the bowl was found, although at this point it would be quite difficult to deduce for certain where they originated from.

It is certainly fitting that this artifact would be created as a form of a practical joke, especially given the fact that the small figurine sitting on top of the bowl gazing down at the drinker is Tantalus.

Like the past users of this mug, who were never quite able to drink from it, so too was Tantalus the cruel victim of gods who saw to it that he was doomed to spend eternity deep in Tartarus while being forever rooted in water which always drained away before he was able to quench his thirst.

With the original Roman Tantalus bowl in Zagreb, Dr. Hobbs is currently in the process of having a duplicate mug contrived so that tests can be performed on it which show how the world’s first practical joke might have once played out.