Ancient Sumer: The world’s oldest riddle
Even 4,000 years ago, people tested one another’s critical thinking skills with riddles and logic puzzles. This ancient civilisation, located in what is today the country of Iraq, left us with one of the earliest known examples of a written riddle. (Ancient Sumer is also the civilisation with the oldest surviving writing system that we know of!) Here is the riddle: “There is a house. One enters it blind and comes out seeing. What is it?”
A school. The Sumerians placed a significant emphasis on the value of education and knowledge, and some of their mathematical discoveries are still in use today.
The Bible: Samson’s riddle
This riddle isn’t Ancient Sumer old, but it probably dates back to the sixth or eighth century BC. In the Book of Judges, the seventh book in the Old Testament, Samson poses a riddle to his 30 dinner guests. He tells them that if they answer correctly, he will give them 30 expensive pieces of clothing, but if they guess wrong, they must give him expensive clothing. The catch? The riddle was rigged. The guests wouldn’t have known the answer because only people who knew Samson personally had any hope of solving it. So you certainly shouldn’t break your brain trying to figure it out, but here it is all the same: “Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.”