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Egyptian tablet from 1250 BC shows that people called in sick at work for silly reason just like us

The ancient Egyptian tablet consisted of records of sick leaves and reasons and while some are the same as today, others are mind-boggling.

Egyptian tablet from 1250 BC shows that people called in sick at work for silly reason just like us
Cover Image Source: The British Museum

Employees are familiar with taking leave and calling in sick at work. While new reasons have emerged, the practice has been prevalent for centuries. A tablet from 1250 BCE at the British Museum records the sick calls and leave taken by Egyptian workers centuries ago. The tablet was used as a register to record the excuses and leaves, per My Modern Met. The tablet called Ostracon contained the list of workers and their excuses for their absence. While many reasons are similar to those today, some are shocking and astonishing.

Representative Image Source: Pexels| Mouad Mabrouk
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Mouad Mabrouk

The tablet contained the list of 40 workers whose names were mentioned along with dates of absence marked in red, per Medium. While mundane reasons included illnesses, caring for sick parents and family members and so on, there were mind-boggling reasons too. The tablet recorded multiple entries of Egyptians who called in sick due to stings from scorpions. A list of over 20 reasons translated into English was shared. The format included the worker’s name and the date they missed work, followed by the reason. One of the reasons read, “Horneffer: Winter, 2nd month, 13th day-17th day (With the boss).”

Image Source: British Museum
Image Source: British Museum

Another worker had quite a few entries of absence. They were recorded as “Sawadjyt: Spring, 3rd month, 23rd day-24th day (With the boss), Spring, 4th month, 16th day (Daughter had her period), Winter, 1st month, 14th day-15th day (Offering to the God), Winter, 1st month, 24th day-25th day (Libation for father), 26th day-28th day (With the boss).” Being with the boss or carrying out tasks for the boss was another repetitive reason for absence among workers. Another record is that of menstruation of the women in the family. The latter was taken from a different perspective back then and men were required to be home during this time.

Representative Image Source: Pexels| Miguel Á. Padriñán
Representative Image Source: Pexels| Miguel Á. Padriñán

Other records consisted of building the house, looking after parents and having other chores and tasks to do. Workers even excused themselves to make offerings to God and other traditional practices or rituals as per the importance at the time. However, the most stunning reasons were the mummification of family members and beer brewing. While the former is no longer used in today’s corporate world, the latter could cause havoc if used as an excuse! However, for Egyptians, both tasks were crucial back in the day. Mummification was done as a traditional practice among Egyptians. Brewing beer was considered a duty since it is said to have been the daily drink. The beverage was deemed a principal food and was consumed for celebrations and festivals, per the British Museum.

Workers at pyramids relied on beer and were granted 10 pints daily. Apart from its heavy consumption, it was also associated with the Egyptian Gods. Hathor, the goddess of love, dance and beauty, was also known as “The Lady of Drunkenness.” Given beer's importance, it's understandable that workers were excused to brew it. While several excuses resonate even today, many offer a dive into the Egyptians’ rich culture and lifestyle. @AlisonFisk shared a post on X with an image of the tablet. She wrote, “Reasons recorded for worker absence on this 3,200-year-old ancient Egyptian attendance register include ‘brewing beer,’ ‘stung by a scorpion’ and ‘embalming brother!’”


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