Aberdeen economist delves into the ‘Riddle of the Sands’

Aberdeen economist delves into the ‘Riddle of the Sands’

Professor Tim Barmby will together with his co-author Professor Peter Dolton, of Royal Holloway College, University of London, present the results of some analysis they have been undertaking on the work behaviour of workers on Syrian archaeological digs in the 1930s, at the British Museum next week.

The research started partly by chance when Professor Dolton spotted a book containing wage payments in an exhibition on Agatha Christie at the British Museum. Agatha Christie’s second husband was the famous archaeologist Max Mallowan and she spend much time with him on digs in the 1930s.

The workers on the dig were paid a basic daily rate plus an extra daily amount for small finds which workers made, an amulet, a piece of pottery, or jewellery. Professor Barmby made the connection between this and the way New York Cab drivers are paid in the present day (economists are notorious for making these links), since in each case the workers wage goes up and down in a probabilistic way. Economic theory gives a clear prediction as to what should happen – workers should work more when the wage is high, and Syrian workers in the 1930s appeared to understand this as well as modern day taxi drivers!

Professor Barmby and Professor Dolton’s talk at the British Museum will take place on Tuesday, May 16.

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