This could be the world’s oldest ghost story.
A 3,500-year-old Babylonian tablet at the British Museum contains what has been identified as the oldest known drawing of a ghost, according to a report by The Guardian.
The tablet shows the love-lorn ghost bound and being led into the afterworld by his lover — believed to depict an ancient ritual on how to dispatch spirits back to where they’ve come.
“It’s obviously a male ghost and he’s miserable,” Irving Finkel, curator of the Middle Eastern Department at the museum, told the outlet.
“You can imagine a tall, thin, bearded ghost hanging about the house did get on people’s nerves,” Finkel said. “The final analysis was that what this ghost needed was a lover.”
On the back of the tiny tablet that can fit in a person’s hand is lengthy text — instructions on how to deal with a ghost that “seizes hold of a person and pursues him and cannot be loosed,” The Guardian reported.
Together, the text and tablet serve as a primer on how to get rid of the pesky spirit once and for all.
“You can’t help but imagine what happened before,” said Finkel, an authority on ancient Middle Eastern writing. “‘Oh God, Uncle Henry’s back.’ Maybe Uncle Henry’s lost three wives. Something that everybody knew was that the way to get rid of the old bugger was to marry him off. It’s not fanciful to read into this.
“It’s a kind of explicit message,” he said. “There’s very high-quality writing there and immaculate draughtsmanship. That somebody thinks they can get rid of a ghost by giving them a bedfellow is quite comic.”
The image had been misinterpreted for years, Finkel said, because the heavily faded specter could only be seen by looking at the tablet from above and under the light.
The tablet has been in the museum since the 19th Century but has never been put on public exhibit, The Guardian reported.