A Babylonian retelling of Noah and the Ark on a 3,000-year-old clay tablet could be one of the oldest example of fake news, a Cambridge academic has claimed.
In the engraved scripture, Ea the Babylonian god appears to suggest to Noah that he tell his helpers 'food will rain from the skies' if they help build the ark.
However, Dr Martin Worthington, a leading expert on the Babylonian language, claims that the words have a double meaning.
Dr Worthington discovered the trickery on the 11th tablet of Gilgamesh, dating back to 700BC, which gives the Babylonian account of the flood.
Although Noah has a different name in the scripture, discovered by assyriologist George Smith in 1872, it is largely accepted to be the same story as Noah and the Ark in the bible, Genesis, but with fewer gods.
Translated the cuneiform script 'ina lilâti ušaznanakkunūši šamūt kibāti' reads along the lines of 'at dawn there will be kukku cakes', but can equally mean 'at dawn, he will rain down upon you darkness', reports The Telegraph.
While another line promises 'he will rain down on you abundance' or less appealingly 'he will rain down on you abundantly'.
Dr Worthington told The Telegraph: 'Ea tricks humanity by spreading fake news. He tells the Babylonian Noah, known as Uta-napishti, to promise his people that food will rain from the sky if they help him build the ark.
Adding: 'Once the Ark is built, Uta-napishti and his family clamber aboard and survive with a menagerie of animals. Everyone else drowns.
'With this early episode, set in mythological time, the manipulation of information and language has begun. It may be the earliest ever example of fake news.'
Dr Worthington suggests that Ea, the god's part in the story, was all about self interest - as Babylonian's believed gods needed to be fed by humans to survive.
The baked clay tablet is kept at the British Museum and could have been inscribed by scholar of the time Sîn-lēqi-unninni, claims the academic.
It is thought to be the most famous example of cuneiform text and tells of how the gods conspired to send a deadly flood to earth - except one, Ea, who told Utu-napishtim of the plan.
Dr Worthington believes a tale similar to the one widely known now, with animals and birds taken on board until the rain stops then released, was 'finalised' in around 1,200 BC, reports The Telegraph.
Babylonia was an ancient state and cultural area based in central-southern Mesopotamia, now present-day Iraq, that spoke Akkadian.