• Newsfeed
  • Bizarre

This Ancient Roman Joke Pen From Thousands of Years Ago Was All About Thrifty Gifting

3 minute read

Archaeologists working on a dig outside of Bloomberg’s new London headquarters have made a new discovery—dad jokes have been around for nearly 2,000 years. According to The Guardian, a team discovered an iron stylus—a pen—complete with an inscribed joke, that apparently dates back to around 70 A.D.

The inscription on the pen reads: “I have come from the City. I bring you a welcome gift with a sharp point that you may remember me. I ask, if fortune allowed, that I might be able (to give) as generously as the way is long (and) as my purse is empty.”

In other words: Some 2,000 years ago, a Roman made the long journey to London and all they brought their friends was a pen with a joke about being broke. “‘The City’ referred to is very likely Rome,” the Museum of London Archeology, which oversaw the dig, said in a blog post, adding that “the stylus suggests a direct link between Roman Italy and the province of Britannia.”

According to the museum, London, or Londinium as it was known at the time, was far from the center of the Roman Empire, “had grown into an important centre for commerce and governance, interconnected with the wider Roman world.” As the Roman Empire spread across Europe, travelers needed ways to keep in touch with friends and family and business acquaintances back home using iron styluses to write on wax-filled wooden writing tablets. “The stylus and its inscription highlights the crucial role that writing and literacy played in allowing traders, soldiers and officials to keep in contact with peers, friends and family, some of whom lived over a thousand miles away,” the museum wrote. While dad jokes are not rare, inscribed styluses are “exceptionally” so. According to the museum, “archaeologists have found only a handful of examples from across the whole Roman Empire to date, and the Bloomberg inscription is the finest, unparalleled in the length, poetry and humour of its inscription.”

The joke pen wasn’t the only artifact that was unearthed during the excavation that place at the new Bloomberg headquarters in London between 2010 and 2014. In fact, more than 14,000 artifacts were uncovered from their resting place under the streets of London, including the first written reference to the name of the city, and more than 600 are on display at London Mithraeum Bloomberg SPACE.

Archaeology is central to Bloomberg’s Stirling Prize-winning building. The building’s design includes a public pedestrian arcade that re-establishes an ancient Roman road and a museum displaying the Roman temple of Mithras in its original location.

No word on whether they will sell souvenir joke pencils to visitors.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com