The inscribed artifact has been traced to the area known as Uruk in Mesopotamia which would have been situated in current-day Iraq. It has been identified as a type of paystub, with writer Alison George explaining in a piece for New Scientist that the marks indicate “a human head eating from a bowl, meaning ‘ration,’ and a conical vessel, meaning ‘beer.'” She also adds that there are “scratches recording the amount of beer for a particular worker.”
As a description by the British Museum which holds the tablet points out, “Beer was the most popular drink in Mesopotamia for men, women and children alike.” In addition to perhaps being more flavorful and safe compared to water, the beverage was also a filling substitute for food.
The inscription is presented in an early picture-based writing system called cuneiform.