Ancient Egyptian log of absenteeism dating back 1250 years: it became known why Egyptians missed work

Maria Tsikhotska

Ancient Egyptian log of absenteeism dating back 1250 years: it became known why Egyptians missed work

Even in 1250 B.C., Egyptians had to provide their employers with explanations for their absence from work, which were recorded in a special attendance log called an ostracon. The British Museum has an artifact on display that records the reasons for the absence of 40 employees for 280 days of the year.

IFLScience writes about it.

The 1250-year-old ostracon is a unique example of the labor relations of the ancient Egyptians. The limestone piece contains information about the attendance of 40 employees for 280 days a year. The logbook records the dates and reasons for the absence of a particular employee.

The ostracon contains twenty-four lines written in New Egyptian hieratic script on the front and twenty-one lines on the back. Each line has a word highlighted in red that indicates the reason for the employee's absence from work.

Some of the reasons for the absences are understandable, while others are surprising: for example, Seba's reason for being absent was a scorpion sting, and Pennub was caring for his sick mother. Some workers even cited menstruation as a reason for their absence. It's impressive that society was progressive enough to respect such reasons.

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Another reason for absence from work was embalming and wrapping their deceased relatives. The Egyptians also often brewed beer, which was also a good reason for their absence from work.

For the Egyptians, beer was an important part of their diet, it was sacrificed to the gods and sometimes paid as a salary. Based on the ancient ostracon, we can conclude that the ancient Egyptians had a better attitude to building a workflow than some employers in the 21st century.

As a reminder, we have already written about the history of the reign of the first Sumerian ruler, Queen Kubaba.

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