Ancient pay stub reveals worker was paid with beer

A 5,000-year-old clay tablet is the oldest known pay stub in the world, and it has revealed an interesting relationship between one ancient worker and his boss: the worker was paid with beer. The pay stub was discovered in what is now modern day Iraq, and it is written in cuneiform, appearing to be a gibberish of lines and chicken scratch to most of us. A trained eye, though, will see a person with his head leaned toward a bowl and another container with a shape that indicates beer, as well as marks that show how much beer the worker got for his labor.

For researchers, the pay stub is a wonderful insight into worker – employer relationships from thousands of years ago, indicating that a compensation and record system was established in a way that doesn't seem too different from modern times.

For everyone else, it's yet another example of how similar modern humans are to their ancient counterparts — who hasn't offered a friend a case of beer in exchange for some help moving or working on a car? In the same vein, and as an interesting aside, many amusing (and mostly NSFW) phrases were discovered as graffiti in Pompeii that further illustrates our similarities with our ancient counterparts.

It isn't clear whether the worker was always paid in beer specifically — perhaps, in that case, being able to sell it off personally for other things — or if the beer payment was an occasional thing, and other commodities were also paid when available. During this time period in this region, money wasn't yet a thing and the economy was in its infancy. Does that make beer the oldest known currency?

This isn't the first time records have been found indicating workers were paid with beer. Similar records were discovered from ancient Egypt, for example, though they aren't quite as old is this pay stub from Mesopotamia.

SOURCE: News Scientist