Feature Object: Ostracon of absences, New Kingdom

Feature Object: Ostracon of absences, New Kingdom
Where you absent from work because you were painting scenes in the private tomb chapel of your boss? Or were you celebrating a festival for one of your gods?
This ostracon [1] found along with thousands of others in a huge refuse pit north of the tomb builder's village of Deir el-Medina west of Thebes records the reasons for worker absence during a 280 period during year 40 of the rule of Ramesses II. The ostracon is written in hieratic, a stylised quickly written script used for everyday writing and record keeping.
The literate community of tomb artisans have left us many written records which reveal much about the structure and nature of everyday life in their corner of Egypt during the New Kingdom. While these people were perhaps a little unusual in that they were educated and highly skilled, with many of their needs paid for by the State, they nonetheless provide us with valuable and unique insights into ancient life along the Nile.
[1] Ostracon - from the Greek term for a broken potsherd which was used as the ancient equivalent of notepaper - in Egypt, and in particular at Deir el-Medina, flakes of the abundant local white limestone were used to write everything from laundry lists to love poetry.
Recommended reading:
McDowell A.G. (1999) "Village life in Ancient Egypt - Laundry lists and love songs." New York: Oxford University Press
Click on the image to learn more about this object.
Object details:
Title: Limestone ostrakon with a register of workmen's absences
Date created: -1250/-1250
Physical Dimensions: Height: 38.50cm; Width: 33.00cm
External Link: British Museum collection online
Registration number: .5634
Place: Excavated/Findspot Deir el-Medina
Period/culture: 19th Dynasty
Material: limestone


  1. Lopez Oladapo Please do check my facts by clicking on the link, it will take you to the British Museum site where you can learn more details about the piece. Although I presented this item in a humorous manner, it is a real document, one of many thousands of surprising records found at the site, many of them have been translated into English and published in books like:
    McDowell A.G. (1999) "Village life in Ancient Egypt - Laundry lists and love songs." New York: Oxford University Press
    I will add that book to the end of the post for suggested further reading.

  2. I love that it's really good verifying the passed creatures


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