An off-colour gag about breaking wind is the world's oldest joke, researchers have revealed.
Academics searching for the oldest examples of recorded witticisms compiled a top 10 featuring randy pharaohs, dead donkeys and the ancient equivalent of three men in a pub - three ox-drivers from Adab.
Modern puns, Essex girl jokes and toilet humour can all be traced back to the very earliest jokes, according to the study.
Dr Paul McDonald, from the University of Wolverhampton, who led the study, 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."
The study defined a joke as having a clear set-up and punchline structure, a tradition which was traced back to 1900 BC.
Researchers believe it was then that the world's oldest joke, an ancient Sumerian proverb, was cracked: "Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband's lap."
The joke, which could possibly date back even further, to 2,300 BC, was explained as the ancient equivalent of the actor John Barrymore's quip: "Love is the delightful interval between meeting a beautiful girl and discovering that she looks like a haddock."
Other jokes that made the list feature the traditional question and answer format as used in 1600 BC Eygpt: "How do you entertain a bored pharaoh? Sail a boatload of young women dressed only in fishing nets down the Nile - and urge the pharaoh to go catch a fish."
Meanwhile a 1200 BC tale featuring three ox drivers from Adab, an ancient Sumerian city, displays the traditional "rule of three", where the joke's set-up is heard three times before the pay-off.
Researchers also identified the UK's oldest joke, a naughty riddle from the 10th century: "What hangs at a man's thigh and wants to poke the hole that it's often poked before? Answer: A key."
The UK's oldest one-liner, taken from a 1526 joke book, was the snappy response from a boy asked by the Law to state his father's craft, who answered that his father was a crafty man of Law.
The study was commissioned for Dave, the TV channel which bills itself as "the home of witty banter", to celebrate a night of stand-up comedy, Live at the Apollo, to be broadcast on August 2.
Steve North, Dave's channel head, said: "What is interesting about these ancient jokes is that they feature the same old stand-up comedy subjects: relationships, toilet humour and sex jokes.
"The delivery may be different, but the subject matter hasn't changed a bit."
The world's 10 oldest jokes are, according to the study:
1. Something which has never occurred since time immemorial: a young woman did not fart in her husband's lap. (1900 BC - 1600 BC Sumerian Proverb Collection 1.12-1.13)
2. 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. (An abridged version first found in 1600 BC on the Westcar Papryus)
3. Three ox drivers from Adab were thirsty: one owned the ox, the other owned the cow, and the other owned the wagon's load.
The owner of the ox refused to get water because he feared his ox would be eaten by a lion; the owner of the cow refused because he thought his cow might wander off into the desert; the owner of the wagon refused because he feared his load would be stolen.
So they all went. In their absence the ox made love to the cow, which gave birth to a calf, which ate the wagon's load.
Problem: Who owns the calf? (1200 BC)
4. A woman who was blind in one eye has been married to a man for 20 years. When he found another woman he said to her: "I shall divorce you because you are said to be blind in one eye."
And she answered him: "Have you just discovered that after 20 years of marriage?" (Egyptian circa 1100 BC)
5. The hero Odysseus tells the monster Cyclops that his real name is "nobody". When Odysseus instructs his men to attack the Cyclops, the Cyclops shouts: "Help, nobody is attacking me!" Nobody comes to help. (Homer. The Odyssey 800 BC)
6. Question: What animal walks on four feet in the morning, two at noon and three at evening? Answer: Man. He goes on all fours as a baby, on two feet as a man and uses a cane in old age. (Appears in the play Oedipus Tyrannus, first performed in 429 BC)
7. Man is even more eager to copulate than a donkey - his purse is what restrains him. (Egyptian, Ptolemaic Period 304 BC - 30 BC)
8. Augustus was touring his Empire and noticed a man in the crowd who bore a striking resemblance to himself. Intrigued, he asked: "Was your mother at one time in service at the Palace?"
"No your Highness," he replied, "but my father was." (Credited to the Emperor Augustus, 63 BC - 29 AD)
9. Wishing to teach his donkey not to eat, a pedant did not offer him any food. When the donkey died of hunger, he said: "I've had a great loss. Just when he had learned not to eat, he died." (Dated to the Philogelos or Laughter-Lover, the oldest extant jest book, 4th /5th Century AD)
10. Asked by the court barber how he wanted his hair cut, the king replied: "In silence." (Collected in the Philogelos, compiled in the 4th/5th Century AD)