Made up quote

I spotted on Twitter (yes, it’s still there), and Pocketed it, but after some investigations, this sadly appears to be an incorrect attribution. That is, if it’s an attribution at all.

Obviously, this tweet was hugely popular. 18,000+ retweets, 82,000 likes. Because it describes modern life so perfectly, and yet this was happening 4,000 years ago. It’s telling us that IT’S NOT OUR FAULT THAT THINGS ARE FALLING APART.

But it’s not true. Neither the attribution, nor the blamelessness.

To be fair to Ryan, it’s left to us to assume that he is linking the quote and the image. And it’s a reasonable assumption to make, but he doesn’t actually tell us that’s what the tablet in the picture says.

In fact, the tablet in the picture is more of a accounting book and shopping list, according to the New York Metropolitan Museum:

This tablet is of a type used by the Assyrian merchants to track the income and expenses generated by caravan shipments. The cuneiform text, read from left to right, records not only the amount of silver invested in tin and textiles, but also the less commonly traded precious stone lapis lazuli, which was sourced from Afghanistan. In addition to investments in trade items, these shipments required various expenditures like clothing and wages for guides, as well as donkeys and their equipment and fodder.

What you see in the image above is the Old Assyrian version of Excel. (But it probably crashed less and was easier to use.) What it isn’t (apparently, at least) is some sort of Get Out Of Jail Free card for modern humanity over the mess that society has become. You are not absolved.