Archaeologists gained fascinating insight into the medical practices of an ancient Egyptian village.

The residents of a village that is now called Deir el-Medina had access to what has been called "the earliest documented governmental health care plan," Stanford University reported. Written records have shown craftsmen who worked on the Egyptian pharaohs' royal tombs across the river from Luxor could take paid sick days and even receive free checkups at a health clinic. These workers were prevalent mainly during the 19th and 20th dynasties.

"The more I learn about Egypt, the more similar I think ancient Egyptian society is to modern American society," said Stanford Egyptologist Anne Austin. "Things we consider creations of the modern condition, such as health care and labor strikes, are also visible so far in the past."

An analysis of skeletons from the region also showed possible failures of the ancient health system. One individual appeared to have continued working while suffering from a blood infection.

"[Workers] nonetheless felt pressure to work through illness, perhaps to fulfill tacit obligations to the state to which they owed so much," Austin said. 

The bodies also showed signs of stress from the tough climbing associated with pyramid building, and many of these individuals suffered from arthritis of the knee.

Some skeletons suggest those born with severe disabilities were well cared for and not forced to work because they did not show the same signs of wear and tear.

The findings provide insight into how these ancient people viewed health and disease.

"Egyptians thought about [disease] as a kind of contamination of the body. To get better, instead of balancing yourself, you had to purge yourself of the contaminant, Austin said. "It's very similar to modern germ theory. It shows an awareness of disease as being external."