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Djekhy & SonDoing Business in Ancient Egypt$

Koenraad Donker van Heel

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9789774164774

Published to Cairo Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.5743/cairo/9789774164774.001.0001

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Flax Djekhy 556–552 bce

Flax Djekhy 556–552 bce

(p.73) 5 Flax Djekhy 556–552 BCE
Djekhy & Son

Koenraad Donker van Heel

American University in Cairo Press

Abstract and Keywords

Apart from the early papyri written between c. 675 and 572 BCE, the archive of Djekhy & Son also contains other documents seemingly unconnected with either Djekhy or Iturech. They cannot have ended up in the archive by chance. Many are closely linked in various ways, dealing with agricultural enterprises sometimes involving choachytes; like the papers of Djekhy & Son, they were written in the middle of the sixth century; and they all come from Thebes.

Keywords:   Djekhy & Son, papyrus, contract, Thebes, land, papyrus, lease, Palette of Khonsu, Amun, Papyrus Louvre

Working the Land

December 556-January 555 BCE (Papyrus BM EA 10432)

The office of the priest of Amun-Ra King of Gods, Psamtik son of Ankhpakhrat became very crowded one day in the winter of 556–555 BCE, between 5 December and 4 January to be precise. This office was probably hidden somewhere in the vast compound of Amun in Karnak. The weather was cool, twenty degrees Celsius perhaps. Psamtik stood face-to-face with no fewer than fifteen men, all wanting to lease the same flax fields. Some may have been accompanied by their eldest sons (who would one day run the family business). This was probably not the only field that would have to be processed today. There were more appointments on this day, all waiting for Psamtik. And this field was no ordinary field, as we will see.

Why did the ancient Egyptians conclude a land lease? It is reasonable to assume that profits, blood ties, friendship, networking, and mutual trust were as important in the Saite Period as they are today. Maybe there was a public tender, or maybe the deal was settled privately over a good glass of wine. These are details we do not know. What we do know is that the Egyptians in the archive of Djekhy & Son liked to do business together, for instance collaborating to till someone else's land for one year. If the harvest was good, all stakeholders stood to benefit. The men who formed these business partnerships called each other kheber, ‘(business) friend.’ Nearly the same word is still used in this sense in Dutch today, gabber, which is derived from Yiddish.

Most contracts would be concluded orally, based on the customary law. P. Mattha contains quite a few sections dealing with the leasing of (p.74) land, which is to be expected in a country so dependent on agriculture (P. Mattha II 5–12). It is likely that the passages below are a reflection of the customary law that governs these leases:

Suppose that someone tills a field and the one who tills them is in charge of them, and if the man who owns the land takes these away from him, saying: “I will not ask rental from him,” and if the one who tilled the fields then files a complaint against the owner of the fields, 25 percent of the harvest from the seedcorn will be taken away from the owner of the fields and given to the one who tilled the fields as a compensation for his work.

Suppose that the one who tills the fields is not in charge of them, (…) the one who tills them, whereas he has tilled them with seedcorn belonging to someone else, and if the owner of the fields takes the fields away from him and if the one who has tilled the fields then files a complaint against the owner of the fields, 25 percent of the harvest from the seedcorn will be taken away from the owner of the fields and given to the one who tilled the fields as compensation for his work and his seedcorn.

Suppose that someone draws up a lease contract for a number of fields and the owner of the fields supplies him with seedcorn. If the one who had the lease contract drawn up does not till the fields and receives the seedcorn after the fields have been inundated and manured, he is still obliged to give the harvest from the seedcorn as described in the lease contract that he has drawn up.

Suppose that someone draws up a lease contract for a number of fields and the owner of the fields supplies him with seedcorn. If then there is a year without inundation, he is not obliged to pay the lease, but he will have to return the seedcorn.

The scenarios described in P. Mattha were undoubtedly very common. But for particularly complicated agreements, written leases would be preferable. If people took the trouble to have a written lease drawn up, it was usually because there were special circumstances that made an oral agreement unsatisfactory. In the case of P. BM EA 10432, there were no fewer than fifteen lessees who all wanted to be mentioned by name, probably because each was concerned to keep an accurate record of his percentage in the lease agreement. Their eagerness in this (p.75) particular case probably had something to do with the quality of the land: it was located in The Palette of Khonsu, an area that belonged to the national elite.

The papyrus on which this lease contract was written is now kept in the British Museum. The contract was written in abnormal hieratic. It has broken off at the bottom, so that the name of the scribe is lost, but it is believed to have been Peteamunip son of Petehorresne from the well-known Theban family of scribes described above (see above, “The Saite Restoration”).

Although Djekhy is one of the lessees, strictly speaking this contract does not belong to the archive of Djekhy & Son because the papyrus was found—or at least offered for sale—fifty years earlier than the Eisenlohr collection. Any of the fifteen lessees could have kept the document in his archive, so it probably ended up in the archive of the first person listed, the overseer of the troop Neshorbehedety (‘He belongs to Horus of Edfu’), who is otherwise unknown. It is probable that that the troop referred to here was actually the group of fifteen lessees. In true Egyptian style Neshorbehedety had also brought his son Hor into this deal.

A lease contract like this was only valid for a year. Its value would decrease after the lease had expired, although it would stand as proof that the listed tenant(s) had leased a specific plot before. Thus it could still be useful at a later date.

It is unknown whether the fifteen lessees were there in person when P. BM EA 10432 was drafted or whether they were represented by a single spokesman, a practice known from the archive of Djekhy & Son.1 The tenants are listed in Table 4.

Most of the men listed here as Djekhy's business partners, those marked with (*), are only known from this document. Some others are only known from the records of the Theban choachytes' association (P. Louvre E 7840). But a few are choachytes who appear elsewhere in the Djekhy & Son archive and so about whom we have a bit more information. One of these is Petosiris son of Iturech, Djekhy's erstwhile legal opponent (P. Louvre E 7848; see above). Another is the choachyte Chayutayudeny son of Peteamunip, who appears in the archive a few times. This very rare name means ‘They have taken their share.’ In ancient Egypt names often referred to the gods; in that context, ‘They have taken their share’ almost sounds like a cynical reference to brothers and sisters who died before this child was born. (p.76)

Table 4. Tenants in P. BM EA 10432, in order

Neshorbehedety son of Hor (*)

Overseer of the troop

Djehutyirtais son of Petehorpakhrat (*)

Petosiris son of Iturech


Inaros son of Petehorresne (*)

Chayutayudeny son of Peteamunip


Horkheb son of Khonsuirau (*)

Rery son of Payuyuyu


Payuyuenhor son of Petedjehuty (*)


Ihudjehuty son of Inaros (*)


Djekhy son of Tesmontu


Hor son of Neshorbehedety (*)

Iturech son of Paweher (*)

Hor son of Amunirankh (*)

Nesnebankh son of Horpaykhrat (*)

Peteamunip son of Ituru


There is no direct connection between Chayutayudeny and the documents in the archive of Djekhy & Son mentioning his name and Dkekhy in a single document, except here in P. BM EA 10432. These documents may have ended up with Djekhy's papers through his role as a trustee of the Theban choachytes' association. In one, the same Chayutayudeny appears to be acting on behalf of another joint venture of choachytes (P. Louvre E 7845A). Although Djekhy is not directly named in that text, it is conceivable that he participated in the agreement it documents. Chayutayudeny is also mentioned in P. Louvre E 7845B, a very damaged contract written in the right margin of P. Louvre E 7845A, drawn up to divide a crop between Chayutayudeny and an otherwise unknown man. Much more interesting is the mention of Chayutayudeny son of Peteamunip in P. Louvre E 7128 (511 BCE), in which he is identified as an overseer of the necropolis. But this Chayutayudeny had a different mother, so it is unlikely to be the same man who entered into a land lease with Djekhy; perhaps it was his grandson? From the fact that overseers of the necropolis sometimes attended new year's meetings of the Theban (p.77) choachytes' association (P. Louvre E 7840), we can infer that there were close ties between these groups; it is possible they were close enough for a choachyte to be promoted to overseer of the necropolis.

The list of lessees is the most interesting part of this contract; the remainder is something of an anticlimax. The lessees tell the landlord Psamtik:

You have leased to us the flax fields in The Palette of Khonsu that were sown with flax from regnal year 14 to regnal year 15. We are the ones who will grow flax on them from regnal year 15 to regnal year 16. When harvest has occurred in regnal year 16 you will receive 25 percent of the flax we will produce [ … ].

And that is where the papyrus breaks off. The basic agreement is clear: the landlord will receive 25 percent of the harvest. Later land leases from the archive of Djekhy & Son show that the parties involved generally thought of everything, including the estimation of the harvest by the scribes of the temple and the payment of the harvest tax of the Domain of Amun. It may be that these details were recorded in the part of the document that has been lost, or perhaps simply that the creativity of the scribe petered out after drawing up the long list of tenants. He did not identify the neighboring plots of the flax fields that were the subject of the lease. We know only that they were located in The Palette of Khonsu, a farming area evidently known to any Theban citizen, but not to us.

The Palette of Khonsu

A slightly later land lease from the archive of Djekhy & Son, P. Louvre E 7845A (described in further detail below), does describe the boundaries of The Palette of Khonsu. It was surrounded by fields connected with the funerary cult of the vizier Pamy and fields belonging to the Adoratrice of Amun, the highest priestess of the land. Pamy had been a powerful ruler in his day. His sons Peteamaunet and Pakhar both became viziers themselves, as did Peteamaunet's son Nespakashuty. Vizier Nespakashuty and his uncle Pakhar also married daughters of Pharaoh Takelot III (seventh century BCE).

Little is known about Pamy. On a small Osiris statue in the British Museum (EA 22913) he refers to himself as “scribe of the temple in the (p.78) Domain of Amun, accountant of the Domain of Amun, overseer of the city, and vizier.” Funerary objects found with his descendants also call him a “third prophet of Amun.” It seems that some ancient Egyptians were as interested in collecting titles as their counterparts in modern old boys' networks.

Pamy was found buried alongside members of his closest family in a crypt in the funerary temple complex of Queen Hatshepsut in Deir al-Bahari. Parts of his coffin were found during an excavation by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) in the 1930–31 season. This suggests that The Palette of Khonsu was not just a plot of arable land, but one belonging to the economic, religious, and political elite of the time. For centuries this would remain a well-known farming area in the Theban region. It is still mentioned five hundred years later in an ostracon now kept in the British Museum, O. BM EA 31681, a receipt showing that the land was used to farm grain.

The lease contracts from the Saite Period never record the size of a leased field, so we can only make an educated guess at the dimensions of the fields in The Palette of Khonsu. We can infer that it was reasonably large from the number of lessees in P. BM EA 10432. Let us assume that each of the fifteen lessees stood to receive 5 percent of the harvest, knowing that the landlord received 25 percent. Let us also assume that the land was sown with emmer instead of flax and that each of the lessees needed this 5 percent share to maintain his family. Egyptologists have calculated that an average ancient Egyptian family could live on fifty sacks (four thousand liters) of grain per year. If each 5 percent share of the field yielded fifty sacks of grain (and thus allowed the lessee to support his family), the output of the land leased out in this contract would be a thousand sacks. We do not know exactly how much the Egyptian arura—about half a soccer field—produced; estimates vary from five to twenty sacks of grain per arura. The harvest would of course partly depend on the quality of the land. All these figures come from ancient Egyptian sources, but they do not tell us whether the land in question was very fruitful land or stony ground. If, as an average, we set the output per arura at ten sacks, this would correspond to eight hundred liters of grain, and approximately 3,200 liters per hectare. By these calculations, our fifteen lessees would have been leasing a plot of a hundred aruras, fifty soccer fields, or twenty-five hectares. It is a figure to give even a modern corporate farmer pause.2 Then again, we know that Djekhy's son Iturech possessed more than ten hectares himself.

(p.79) Around the time this lease was being concluded in Thebes, elsewhere in Egypt events were unfolding that help to correct our image of Egypt as an idyllic and morally elevated pastorale. As is so often the case in Egyptology, this is due to mere coincidence, namely the finding of P. Rylands 9.

Papyrus Rylands 9

Egyptologists studying the Late Period in Egypt have long been resigned to the fact that the attention span of most people stops at Tutankhamun or Ramesses II only to pick up again at the temples from the Ptolemaic Period. This is a shame, because many important documentary sources were written in the intermediate Kushite, Saite, and Persian periods—sources that are indispensible for our knowledge of everyday life in Egypt.

One of these sources is P. Rylands 9, a twenty-five-column papyrus written in the reign of Darius I (521–486 BCE), the Persian pharaoh of Egypt. The papyrus was found together with an archive of eight other documentary papyri, P. Rylands 1–8. P. Rylands 9 is a draft, a copy, or a copy of a draft of a petition that was made by an Egyptian called Petiese. Perhaps this petition was even addressed to the Persian satrap of Egypt. The text, mostly written in early demotic, was published in 1909 in three volumes—and brilliantly at that—by Francis Llewellyn Griffith in his Catalogue of the Demotic Papyri in the John Rylands Library Manchester: With Facsimiles and Complete Translations. This publication by Griffith was so good that even today, a hundred years later, it remains a key source. In the meantime, however, we have learned more about the time of Darius and early demotic. Thus the definitive publication is now considered to be the equally thorough edition published in two parts by the German demotist Günter Vittmann, Der demotische Papyrus Rylands 9 (1998). Vittmann's edition does not contain any modern photographs, and it has sadly become impossible to take any. In the 1960s or 1970s, the Egyptologist E.A.E. Reymond treated the papyrus with some type of oil in an effort to conserve it, but instead damaged it beyond recognition. The original is thus no longer of any use for scientific purposes.

What makes P. Rylands 9 so special? For one thing, it is a highly detailed petition to the government by a native Egyptian. If we are to believe the author, Petiese, in some parts of Late Period Egypt the authorities were corrupt to the core. Without a powerful protector, you (p.80) were lost. P. Rylands 9 is about plunder, murder, corruption, arson, and intimidation—not by the Persian occupation force, but by Egyptian officials and the priests of Amun in the little town of al-Hiba.

At that time al-Hiba was called Tayudjy, which translated literally means ‘their walls.’ In the Twenty-first Dynasty, extensive fortifications had been built there. The town lies on the east bank of the Nile, about twenty miles south of the Fayum. The temple of al-Hiba was devoted to Amun-Ra Great of Roaring Lord of the Great Rock and is believed to have been instigated by Pharaoh Sheshonq I of the Twenty-second Dynasty, who reigned from approximately 945 to 924 BCE.

The author of P. Rylands 9 is called Petiese, but his petition is a frame narrative that spans a number of generations, including the reigns of Psamtik I, Psamtik II, Apries, Amasis, and Darius I. The papyrus mentions a number of people called Petiese. They were the forefathers of the author of P. Rylands 9, who lived in the reign of Darius I. This is why the author of P. Rylands 9 is usually referred to as Petiese III. This is his simplified family tree:

Family member

Reign of



Petiese I

Psamtik I


Wedjasematawy I

Psamtik I


Petiese II

Psamtik II/Apries


Wedjasematawy II



Petiese III (author P. Rylands 9)

Darius I

The actual source of all trouble is Petiese I. In his petition Petiese III rather naively describes how this Petiese I provided just about any member of his family with a lucrative priestly office in the temple. He (p.81) obviously had the authority to do so and used it to the full. Petiese I managed the whole of Upper Egypt on behalf of Psamtik I. He started out as an assistant, but later became the co-administrator of the southern territory together with the great harbormaster Petiese son of Ankhsheshonq, who was a viceroy of some sort. According to the petition of Petiese III, his own forefather Petiese I had recommended Sematawytefnakht, the son of this great harbormaster, to Psamtik I so that he could succeed to his father's position in year 18. This would be strange, because already in regnal year 9 of Psamtik I Sematawytefnakht—also known from a number of statues found in the Delta—was the great harbormaster who commanded the fleet that brought princess Nitocris to Thebes, where she was to become the highest priestess of Amun in the land.

During one of his tours of inspection—perhaps even in the context of the Saite Restoration described in chapter 2—Petiese I docked at al-Hiba. There he saw that the temple was in ruins. When he asked how this had come about, he was told that the temple had suffered severely from a tax imposed during the Assyrian occupation that had never been lifted by the Egyptian authorities when Egypt was liberated. Petiese I personally made sure the temple was restored to its former glory and that the economic department of the temple was put on its feet again, partly by donating a thousand aruras of arable land. He was so self-satisfied with his good deeds that he had two granite statues of himself set up in the court of the temple, as well as a commemorative stela on which he summarized all that he had done for public display. He also had a house built in the temple court and had his children and his son-in-law Horwedja appointed as priests of Amun in al-Hiba. The great harbormaster Petiese son of Ankhsheshonq, impressed with his protégé, had his own income as a priest of Amun in al-Hiba transferred to Petiese I. It must have been quite irritating to the regular priestly staff of the temple of Amun in al-Hiba to see Petiese I—under the protection of the most powerful ruler in Upper Egypt—allot al-Hiba priesthoods to his family members and thereby rob their own relatives of an income. In regnal year 31 of Psamtik I, 634 BCE, matters came to a head:

It happened in regnal year 31 in the third month of the peret season that the grain that had grown on The God's Offering of Amun of al-Hiba was being delivered. It was collected at the temple. The priests went to the temple and said: “I say, by Ra! Now he will come again (p.82) and take 20 percent of The God's Offering right before our eyes, that sniveling southerner.” They recruited some sinister types and said: “Come over tonight with your clubs, lie on the grain, and bury your clubs there till the morning.” Now it so happened that Horwedja son of Payfchauawybastet (the son-in-law of Petiese I) had two strong sons. When morning came the priests went to the temple to divide the grain among the phyles (the rotating priestly crews). The two sons of Horwedja son of Payfchauawybastet came to the temple and said: “Let them measure out 20 percent (for us).” The young priests took their clubs from the grain, surrounded both sons, and beat them up. They fled before them (i.e., the attackers) to the holiest part of the temple, but they were still being pursued. At the entrance to the holiest place of the temple of Amun they were overtaken and were beaten to death there and thrown into a granary.

Murder in the Cathedral, many centuries earlier in Egypt. The priestsof Amun in al-Hiba had no scruples when it came to murdering colleagues who wanted their share of the harvest. In the end they got away with it; after a legal procedure without any result, an uncomfortable cease-fire was concluded between the family of Petiese I and the priests of al-Hiba.

Years later things got out of hand again. In his fourth regnal year, Psamtik II (591 BCE) visited Syria and Palestine, probably to reinforce the Egyptian presence in the region. This was a region where things were always near boiling point, and now even Babylon was being threatened by the Medes. Psamtik decided to bring a delegation of priests from as many temples as possible. At that time Petiese II, grandson of Petiese I, was serving as priest of Amun in the temple of al-Hiba, collecting 20 percent of all the income from the temple. The other priests of Amun set him up nicely:

A message was also sent to al-Hiba that a priest was to be sent with the bouquet of Amun to accompany Pharaoh into Syria. The priests met and they all said to Petiese II son of Wedjasematawy I: “It is appropriate that you accompany Pharaoh to Syria. There is nobody in this town except you who could go to Syria. Look, you're a scribe of records. There is nothing people could ask you that would not lead to a fitting answer. You are the priest of Amun. The priests of Amun and of the (other) great gods of Egypt are the ones who will accompany Pharaoh to Syria.”

(p.83) Naturally, the moment Petiese II was in Syria the priests of Amun transferred his rights to 20 percent of the harvest to someone else, someone more powerful than he. Petiese II attempted to have his rights restored at the royal court, but the king was ill—or at least he said he was. Petiese II then sued the new owner of his share before the vizier and a court of law, but he did not succeed in his claim. In the end, financed by his relatives, he returned to al-Hiba, where he was given a piece of well-meant and timeless advice, which provides a useful insight into sixth-century-BCE Egypt—and indeed today:

Petiese II son of Wedjasematawy I came north and arrived at al-Hiba. The people he met all said to him: “It's no use filing a claim in a legal court. Your opponent is richer than you. Even if you have a hundred pieces of silver, he will still make sure that you lose.”

While the primary purpose of P. Rylands 9 was to end the age-old conflict between the family of Petiese III and the priests of Amun in the village of al-Hiba, the text also describes the tensions between the Royal Domain and the Domain of Amun.

All the agricultural activities by Djekhy & Son were undertaken in the Domain of Amun in Thebes. As in al-Hiba, the economic department of this domain—staffed by the priests of Amun—was called The God's Offering of Amun. P. Rylands 9 shows that its employees were not necessarily reliable. However, there is nothing in the papers left by Djekhy & Son suggesting that things were as bad in Thebes as they were in al-Hiba. But even the Domain of Amun had to compete with other entities: the other gods had their own domains, as did the political elite (and their funerary cults), and kings and their relatives.

The conflict between the Royal Domain and the Domain of Amun described in P. Rylands came to a head in the fifteenth regnal year of Amasis, which was during Djekhy's lifetime. The narrative should be taken with a grain of salt: it is likely that Petiese III strove to paint the blackest possible picture of the priests of Amun from al-Hiba.

It began with a fanatical overseer of fields. While this role could be filled by a local official, some acted as national agricultural supervisors and were powerful men acting by order of the king. Their main task was to ensure that the royal granaries were always full. According to the description given by Petiese III, in regnal year 15 of Amasis, this overseer of the (p.84) fields had noticed something strange about the fields of the temple of Amun in al-Hiba, prompted by information from an otherwise unknown scribe by the name of Payfchauawybastet. On the basis of that information, the overseer launched a fiscal raid he had already been planning:

“There's an island in the possession of the priests of Amun in al-Hiba—484 aruras have been allotted to them, but it is actually one thousand aruras. The statue of Pharaoh Amasis was brought to al-Hiba and NN was appointed as its priest. He allotted 120 aruras to the statue of Pharaoh in al-Hiba, but the statue of Pharaoh that was brought to Heracleopolis was not provided with any field at all.” The overseer of fields sailed south. He arrived at the island of al-Hiba and landed at the extreme tip. He had two field surveyors disembark and go around the island all the way. They included the sandy and wooded parts of the island, making a grand total of about 929 aruras. He had the island of al-Hiba confiscated. These 120 aruras of the statue were located at The Field of Sheqeq. He confiscated these as well. The overseer of fields then sent a message to the high officer Manenwakhibre: “The priests of Amun from al-Hiba must come up with four thousand (sacks of) grain (measured with the) forty-hin (measure) as harvest tax for the island that they cultivated.” The officer came to al-Hiba and confiscated the granaries. He had all the grain that he found in the granaries of the houses brought to the temple to be kept under lock and key.

Perhaps illustrative of the intricate relations between Pharaoh and Amun is the fact that, instead of accepting the situation, the priests of Amun rushed to the royal palace, guns blazing. They tried to bribe a trusted servant of Amasis with an annual fee of three hundred sacks of grain (twenty-four thousand liters), two hundred hin of ricinus oil (one hundred liters), fifty hin of honey (twenty-five liters), and thirty geese, requesting only that he make sure Pharaoh would allot the island to Amun for an indefinite period of time.

Some intrigues later, the overseer of fields finally found himself standing before the king:

The overseer of fields was taken before Pharaoh. He said: “My great lord! I found an island in the river just across al-Hiba. The scribes of the district told me it encompassed one thousand aruras of fields. I (p.85) had it measured again and it (actually) encompasses 929 aruras. In the face of Pharaoh! It is not fitting to give this as an offering domain to some god or goddess. It belongs to Pharaoh. It will yield an output of twenty (sacks of) grain with the measure of forty hin for each arura. I then asked the scribes whether this (island) had been allotted to Amun of al-Hiba. They told me that 484½ aruras of it had been allotted to Amun, so I told the priests of Amun: ‘Come, and I will make sure that these will be given to you as compensation for your offering domain on the mainland.’ But they did not listen to me. As far as Amun of al-Hiba is concerned, I found in his possession an offering domain as if it was a very great house, namely thirty-three and a third (sacks of) grain with the measure of forty hin that are allotted daily to Amun of al-Hiba. From this I can fully maintain them (the priests).”

The court official bribed by the priests of Amun was unable to sway the overseer, who was determined to obtain the fields of Amun on the island of al-Hiba, although he was willing to compensate the priests of Amun for it. This was essentially a business (and political) conflict between the Royal Domain and the Domain of Amun, albeit described by a man who—to put it mildly—was not very keen on the priests of Amun. In other words, the suggestion that the priests of Amun would stop at nothing if their salaries were at stake comes from a highly biased report.

Whether or not Petiese's petition is genuine does not really matter. In Egyptology there are hardly any doubts about the authenticity of P. Rylands 9 (these are confined to specific passages). This papyrus does, however, show what could lie behind the rather dry legal formulary in the lease contracts deposited in the archive of Djekhy & Son. This was a world in which power, wealth, and status were hugely important. A faint echo of this is found in the wisdom text contained in Papyrus Insinger, which we have encountered before (P. Insinger X 5–8):

The stupid man without protection sleeps in jail. (…) Whoever wants to pay for protection will also sleep safely on the street. Whoever pays a bribe in case of litigation is the one who will always be in the right.

The origin of the rivalry between the Domain of Amun and the Royal Domain can be traced as far back as the Twentieth Dynasty. Some Egyptologists believe that the economic system in the thirteenth and twelfth (p.86) centuries BCE was still one of large state and temple landholdings. A small number of sources seem to confirm this: Papyrus Harris (c. 1155 BCE) and Papyrus Wilbour (c. 1140 BCE). It is not much to rely on. P. Harris I—or the Great Papyrus Harris, as it has come to be known because of its forty-two-meter length—records the donations made by Ramesses III to the temples of Egypt during his reign. P. Wilbour is a cadastral survey covering a small area in the middle of Egypt, which apparently records assessments of the yields of arable plots according to their size. Similar texts have recently come to light, like Papyrus Reinhardt from the tenth century BCE, which will eventually allow Egyptologists to paint a more complete and reliable picture. If P. Harris I is to be believed, Ramesses III granted no fewer than 113,433 people to the temples, as well as perhaps 15 percent of the arable land in Egypt. Much of this naturally went to his own mortuary temple at Medinet Habu.

The conflict of ownership and the right of taxation between the Domain of Amun and the Royal Domain described in P. Rylands 9 finds a nice parallel in Papyrus Valençay 1, presumably written at the end of the reign of Ramesses XI, the last pharaoh of that name. In this official letter, the mayor of Elephantine politely but stubbornly refuses to pay taxes to the Domain of the Adoratrice of Amun, claiming that these taxes have consistently been paid to the Treasury of Pharaoh:

[May] Amun praise Menmaaranakhte. The mayor of Elephantine Meryunu sends greeting. In life, prosperity, health and in the praise of Amun-Ra King of Gods. [I say] each day to [Amun-Ra]-Horakhty when he rises and goes to rest, as well as to Khnum, Satis, and Anuqis and all (other) gods of Elephantine: “Keep the chief taxing-master healthy, give him life, prosperity, health, a long lifetime, and a good old age. Give him praise before Amun-Ra King of Gods, his good lord, and before Pharaoh, his good lord.”

To wit: the scribe Pachauemdyamun of the Domain of the Adoratrice of Amun came, and he arrived in Elephantine looking for the grain for the Domain of the Adoratrice of Amun. He said to me: “Give one hundred sacks of grain-as-grain.” So he said to me, but there are no fields producing that amount. And he also said to me: “They are sought from you because of a khata field (i.e., an administrative unit of one thousand square cubits) on the island of Omby.” So it was said to me, although I hadn't plowed any khata fields on the island of Omby.

(p.87) As Amun endures, and as the Ruler l.p.h. endures, if a khata field on the island of Omby is found that I have plowed, they can demand the grain from me. There is, however, a field of free men who are taking their gold to the Treasury of Pharaoh l.p.h. for the plowing these free men have done, but they have already paid his gold to the Treasury of Pharaoh l.p.h. I have not worked in any field there.

And then they said to me: “There is also the issue of another field in the district of Edfu.” But this has not been inundated. Only four aruras of field have been inundated in it and I assigned one man and one yoke to it, and the few patches that were found on it were plowed. So when harvest occurred, they brought me forty sacks of grain-as-grain. I have guarded these, not having laid a finger on a single oipe. I have delivered them to the scribe Pachauemdyamun as forty sacks, whereas I swore a firm oath about them, saying: “I have not laid a finger on any oipe or sack in them.” I am sending (this letter) to let the chief taxing-master know.

There is little doubt the New Kingdom tax administration received complaints like these every day. Once these complaints and the subsequent refusal to pay became endemic, partly also as a side effect of the breakdown of central authority, the empire began slowly to fall apart. Herihor's accession as the new pharaoh in Upper Egypt inaugurated the development of two separate ancient Egyptian states.

Relations between these states were mostly peaceful, but eventually the local management and legal cultures diverged, and in Thebes abnormal hieratic became the administrative script—in fact an entirely logical development from late New Kingdom hieratic—while early demotic rose to prominence in Lower Egypt.

The Theban priesthood of Amun was able to achieve this status—some of the high priests assumed royal titles—because the Domain of Amun reportedly owned about 60 percent of all arable temple land and controlled commercial shipping. Several centuries later, the efforts of Psamtik I to regain control of Upper Egypt were thus essentially also aimed at breaking the power of the Domain of Amun.

Into the Flax Business

November-December 555 BCE (Papyrus Louvre E 7844)

In the early winter of 555 BCE, Djekhy and his fellow choachyte Nesamunhotep son of Peteamunip found themselves in the office of the priest (p.88) of Amun Khonsuirau son of Hor to lease some flax fields. Only four years earlier Djekhy and Nesamunhotep had quarreled about the choachytes' rights to a tomb in the Theban necropolis (P. Louvre E 7848). Perhaps both men were here to lease a plot of land on behalf of the Theban choachytes' association, or maybe this was a private enterprise. Some months before, Djekhy had harvested the flax from the fields in The Palette of Khonsu, as part of a joint venture of fifteen lessees (P. BM EA 10432). Apparently the flax business suited him.

Apart from the early papyri written between c. 675 and 572 BCE, the archive of Djekhy & Son also contains other documents seemingly unconnected with either Djekhy or Iturech. They cannot have ended up in the archive by chance. Many are closely linked in various ways, dealing with agricultural enterprises sometimes involving choachytes; like the papers of Djekhy & Son, they were written in the middle of the sixth century; and they all come from Thebes. Take, for instance, P. Louvre E 7841, a receipt for the payment of the harvest tax written in the spring of 559 BCE. The text mentions a man called Djekhy, but this is a namesake:

Regnal year 12, third month of the akhet season under Pharaoh l.p.h. Amasis l.p.h. Entered as delivered by Djekhy son of Ankhkhratnefer and his business partner, delivered into the hand of Petosiris son of Djedhoriufankh, the 1-1/10 of flax from The Source of. … (?) of the priest and majordomo of the temple of Khonsu Payuyuhor son of Horemakhet, that you have grown with flax from regnal year 11 to regnal year 12. I have received this 1-1/10 of flax. My heart is satisfied with it, there being no remainder. In the writing of Petosiris son of Djedhoriufankh, in person.

The receipt was countersigned by a witness to the delivery. It is remarkable that the man paying the harvest tax has the same name as the archivist. Apparently, after the land lease had been made out in his name, he grew a crop with an anonymous business partner. There are various ways in which this receipt could have ended up in the archive of Djekhy & Son. Perhaps the anonymous business partner was none other than ‘our’ Djekhy; perhaps he simply kept this receipt for his namesake as a trustee.

(p.89) To return to the winter of 555 BCE, the lessor Khonsuirau was an official of the almighty Domain of Amun. Amun possessed a vast temple compound in Karnak and Luxor, including an economic department called The God's Offering of Amun. This department was tasked with the annual cultivation of the available land (owned by Amun) after the floods of the Nile had subsided. In the case of P. Louvre E 7844 the lessees Nesamunhotep and Djekhy were ordered by Khonsuirau to grow flax on a number of waste lands. Of the harvest, a third was payable to The God's Offering of Amun, and the lessees took the remainder. They would also supply the oxen for plowing, seedcorn, and manpower. For a man who had no fields of his own, but did have some capital and manpower, this could be a profitable deal. The passage below describes the procedure:

Regnal year 16, third month of the shemu season under Pharaoh l.p.h. Amasis l.p.h. The priest of Amun Khonsuirau son of Hor has said to the choachyte Nesamunhotep son of Peteamunip and the choachyte Djekhy son of Tesmontu: “I am the one who has said to you: grow flax on the waste lands from regnal year 16 to regnal year 17. When harvest has occurred in regnal year 17, you will give 33.3 percent of all the seed you will harvest to The God's Offering of Amun, in my hand and in the name of the field, and you will take for yourselves 66.7 percent in the name of ox, seedcorn, and man (power). I will let no scribe of the Kalasirians stand before you, except for the 33.3 percent mentioned above.”

This is a straightforward land lease, so there is not much more to say about it. We must, however, keep in mind that a written land lease was always special, even if after 2,500 years it is unclear why.

It is interesting to note that the share of the Domain of Amun was apparently to be collected by a scribe of the Kalasirians, a warrior class, who also acted as policemen. Other Theban papyri from the Saite Period suggest that it was more usual for the harvest tax to be collected by scribes of the Domain of Amun.

There is also a puzzling marginal note in this lease: “Remainder: 5-1/32 aruras for which seedcorn has been supplied.” This was a small plot; two aruras were about the size of a soccer field. Did this marginal note by the scribe have anything to do with the lease itself? Does it refer to the land actually leased out on this day, or had Nesamunhotep and (p.90) Djekhy rented less than the landlord Khonsuirau expected? It seems somehow unlikely that the Domain of Amun would have written a lease contract for such a small field.

The lease contract itself—P. Louvre E 7844—was written by the otherwise unknown scribe Petebastet son of Ankhwennefer. The contract was then countersigned by the landlord. Below his signature, there is the signature of a man called Horsiese son of Petebastet. This was no doubt the son of the scribe, who would be learning the tricks of the trade in his father's office.

Earlier Work

Most of the land leases from the archive of Djekhy & Son became known through their publication in the 1950s. In 1951 the Russian-French demotist Michel Malinine—his father had been the mayor of Moscow during the Russian Revolution, so a hasty flight to France eventually seemed advisable—published an article in the still-leading French Egyptological journal Revue d'Égyptologie: “Trois documents de l'époque d'Amasis relatifs au louage de terres.” In slightly over twenty pages Malinine was able to explain to a larger audience both what is so difficult about ancient Egyptian land leases and how far he had progressed in deciphering them.

Strangely enough this publication was followed the next year by the equally brilliant Saite Demotic Land Leases, a publication of six land leases from the archive of Djekhy & Son by George Hughes—seven if we include P. BM EA 10432. Evidently the war had slowed its publication, because the manuscript was already finished by 1939. The two men had unwittingly been working on the same papyri more or less at the same time.

Hughes, a farmer's son from Nebraska, was an American Egyptologist with a keen eye for early demotic, though better known to some from the acknowledgments of Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 film The Ten Commandments. The publication of his dissertation, Saite Demotic Land Leases, hadbeen interrupted by the war, when he joined the intelligence service. He would eventually become the professor-director of the Oriental Institute in Chicago as well as an honorary member of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut and the French Institut ďÉgypte, both in Cairo—which was a great honor for an American in those days, when Egyptology was still very much a European affair. He died in 1992.

In the meantime Malinine brought out yet another publication in 1953, a stunning book called Choix de textes juridiques en hiératique anormal (p.91) et en démotique. This contained more texts from the archive of Djekhy &Son, including some that had already been published by George Hughes.3 Some of Malinine's former students would later publish a volume of plates to accompany his Choix de textes juridiques, but not until thirty years later, and it was a disappointment compared to Malinine's first volume.

In 1995 all documents from the archive of Djekhy & Son were published together, some for the first time, in a dissertation from Leiden University: Abnormal Hieratic and Early Demotic Texts Collected by the Theban Choachytes in the Reign of Amasis: Papyri from the Louvre Eisenlohr Lot. Thiswas the first time the entire archive was published as a single integral text.

The very few people in this world able to grasp fully the depth of the publications by Malinine and Hughes will be quick to notice that the two men agreed for the most part when it came to reading early demotic texts—and abnormal hieratic P. BM EA 10432 for that matter. What connects them, apart from the atrocious quality of the paper used to print their books in the scarcity that marked the postwar years, is the sheer excellence of their work. Some words may be unread or signs remain unexplained here and there (different ones with each author)—which is only to be expected when publishing texts like these—but owing to these two men it was possible even fifty years ago to gain a deep understanding of the nature of the ancient Egyptian land leasing system, or to be more precise, the ancient Egyptian land leasing system as it applied in Thebes between 556 and 534 BCE. And that's exactly where it remained for fifty years.

It is important to remember too that this understanding is based on just seven documents, all dating back to the time of a single pharaoh, Amasis, who ruled Egypt between 570 and 526 BCE. It is certainly only a tiny fraction of the number of leases created even in the space of those years. If we assume that during his reign about five hundred land leases were written each year, this would amount to twenty-two thousand contracts. Seven of these would be just 0.032 percent of the total. It would therefore seem prudent to treat this material with some reserve. But what about the six abnormal hieratic land leases that were found with the archive of Djekhy & Son: P. Louvre E 7851 recto (front) and verso (back), 7852, 7856 recto and verso, and 7860 (discussed in Chapter 2)? Five of these were published for the first time only recently, in the Revue d'Égyptologie, more than a hundred years after Revillout purchased the Eisenlohr collection. P. Louvre E 7860 remains unpublished.

(p.92) People lucky enough to peruse the papers of the late Francis Llewellyn Griffith and Jaroslav ýerný in the Griffith Institute in Oxford—two of the world's best readers of late hieratic—will find photos of these papyri, but not a single transcription into hieroglyphs. Michel Malinine, who published most of the papyri from the archive of Djekhy & Son, regularly referred to passages in P. Louvre E 7851–7856 in his notes. He was clearly working on them, but he never published them. The reason they remained unpublished for so long is actually very simple: nobody could properly read them.

It is worth making a slight digression to look at how Egyptologists work with the texts they study. When deciphering abnormal hieratic and early demotic texts, the signs on the original sources must be ‘translated’ into a format that is comprehensible to Egyptologists, particularly since there are only a few Egyptologists who read early demotic, let alone abnormal hieratic (the latter is read by perhaps ten Egyptologists worldwide).

There are two main ways to effect this ‘translation.’ We can transcribe the signs into hieroglyphs. We can also transliterate them into standard European consonants (the Egyptians wrote no vowels, but there are many tricks to pronounce ancient Egyptian). The difference between a transcription and a transliteration is that a transcription tells the reader that you have actually understood all the individual signs and connected sign groups (ligatures), whereas a transliteration avoids this problem by simply ignoring it. The real diehards use both a transcription and a transliteration in their publications, because the transcription shows what they saw, but a transliteration is much handier to use in the notes to a text.

To complicate things, some publications refer to a transliteration as transcription, and different countries have different transliteration systems. An anecdote sometimes heard in Egyptological circles illustrates the problem quite nicely: Ask a German, an Englishman, and a Frenchman to write a book about the camel. In five months the Frenchman will come up with a booklet that elegantly describes the world of the camel: Mes aventures fantastiques et héroïques sur le dos d'un chameau extraordinaire. It will be a brilliant but wafer-thin publication that fills the reader with awe, but provides none of the simple, everyday facts about the camel that the reader had hoped to learn. The Englishman will work hard for a year and write a thorough book describing the camel in great detail, including (p.93) types, behavior, and statistics: Everything You Need to Know about Camels. The German will toil long and hard for half a decade. He will deliver his Das Kamel in four bulky volumes, including every imaginable detail about the camel. Unfortunately his book is unreadable because of the five thousand footnotes the author crammed into it to ensure that no detail, however small, was overlooked.

The competing transliteration systems are much the same. Attempts were made in the 1980s to arrive at a uniform transliteration system for demotic, but so far they have been in vain. Since the rise of modern linguistics even more peculiarities have crept into these systems. For instance, Egyptologists have for generations transliterated the Egyptian sign for the combination ‘ch’ (as in rich) as a t with a stroke underneath: t. Nowadays, however, there are also Egyptologists who favor the use of þ for the same sound, because this apparently is linguistically more correct. Since there is absolutely no difference between the pronunciation of and þ, perhaps the time could have been better spent on unifying the various transliteration systems.

Lease, Harvest, and Tax

P. Louvre E 7844 was written in November or December 555 BCE. Most land leases would be arranged in autumn, from September onward. By then the floods of the Nile had subsided and the fields were ready for plowing and sowing, so this was the best time to do business. The landlord usually retained a quarter or a third of the harvest. The difference was probably determined by the quality of the land, the crop, the distance lessees had to travel to get there, the amount of work and water needed, who provided the plowing oxen and seedcorn, and so on.

Naturally, there were all sorts of exceptions and variants. In P. Louvre E 7833 from 535 BCE, the landlord receives five-sixths of the harvest, and in P. Louvre E 7839 from 534 BCE he gets it all, although this document may no longer properly be called a land lease, since apparently the ‘lessee’ was working the land to repay a debt. The landlord in this case was Iturech, the second owner of the archive of Djekhy & Son.

Then there was the harvest tax of the Domain of Amun. A number of the abnormal hieratic land lease contracts from the archive of Djekhy & Son refer to a tenth.4 In P. Louvre E 7845A from 554 BCE, in exchange for allowing the lessee to work the land, the landlord retains a quarter of the harvest, “the harvest tax of the Domain of Amun being included.” We can (p.94) infer from this that the harvest tax was in any case less than 25 percent. We also regularly come across the 10 percent figure in the early abnormal hieratic land leases, and we know from the Bible that a tenth of the harvest—the fruit tithe—had to be paid to the temple. It would thus be reasonable to conclude that the harvest tax of the Domain of Amun would also have been 10 percent of the total harvest. In Europe this tithe, as the harvest tax became known, was introduced under Charlemagne. The proceeds were used to care for the poor, but also to pay church authorities and buy real estate. In Germany this tithe tax is still known as the Kirchensteuer (church tax).

A Major Deal

July-August 554 BCE (Papyrus Louvre E 7845A)

Djekhy did well by growing flax—or more probably having flax grown by sublessees or employees. That is why the priest of Amun-Ra King of Gods Psamtik son of Ankhpakhrat—the same man who had leased out the large flax fields in The Palette of Khonsu in the winter of 556–555 BCE, recorded in P. BM EA 10432—reappears in the archive the following summer. This time Psamtik also used the prestigious-looking title ‘priest of the great Shu, foremost of the Benben’5 and even included the name of his father's father, Efau.

Outside it was midsummer and stifling hot—temperatures could easily rise to forty degrees Celsius—but the scribe was obviously in a good mood, which we may infer from the fact that, apart from Psamtik's lengthy title, he would also write a beautiful-looking contract on this day. Before him stood the choachyte Chayutayudeny son of Peteamunip and Hemes, one of the fifteen lessees of land in The Palette of Khonsu the year before (P. BM EA 10432). On this day Chayutayudeny and Psamtik closed a deal about the cultivation of a vast piece of land:

Regnal year 17, third month of the peret season under Pharaoh l.p.h. Amasis l.p.h. The priest of Amun-Ra King of Gods and the priest of the great Shu, foremost of the Benben Psamtik son of Ankhpakhrat son of Efau, has said to the choachyte of the valley Chayutayudeny son of Peteamunip, whose mother is Hemes: “I have leased to you my fields in the Domain of Amun in the southern area to the west of Thebes, in the … Specification: my field which is called The Palette of Khonsu—its south being the drain of Hapy the Great (the Nile), (p.95) its north being the fields of the Adoratrice of the God, its west being the fields of the Adoratrice of the God, and its east being the water of Na-Pe. I have leased them to you together with my fields of the mortuary foundation of vizier Pamy—their south being the fields of the Adoratrice of the God, their north being the fields of the singer of the interior of Amun Esekheb, their west being the fields of the … scribe and their east being the the fields of the Adoratrice of the God, that have in turn been leased to me to till them from regnal year 17 to regnal year 18 for their remainder in flax, for their 25 percent, the harvest tax of the Domain of Amun being included. When harvest has occurred in regnal year 18 you will give me 25 percent of all grain, of all the flax you will bring from them, and I will make sure the scribes of the Domain of Amun will be far from you regarding their harvest tax of the Domain of Amun. The scribes of the Domain of Amun will measure my fields in my name, and the mismanagement by the cultivator they will find on them, you will have to pay it to me from your share of the harvest according to what will be determined, and you will leave my fields in regnal year 18.”

The date on which this lease was concluded is unusual. (It must be remembered, however, that there are only about thirteen land leases left from the Late Period, and much of what we have known about them for the past fifty years has been based on only seven of these, as published by George Hughes and Michel Malinine [see above, “Earlier Work”].) In Thebes in the sixth century BCE, a land lease was generally concluded in autumn, after the floodwaters had subsided enough that the arable land could be measured and staked off for cultivation. This contract between Psamtik and Chayutayudeny, however, was written between 8 July and 7 August 554 BCE, which was midsummer. This might be explained by the fact that Chayutayudeny had leased land in the same area the previous year, as part of a joint venture of fifteen lessees, also including Djekhy. The harvest in 555 BCE must have been good, so that they were eager to repeat this success. Chayutayudeny would never be able to cultivate The Palette of Khonsu on his own. Above, we calculated that this field must have been enormous to sustain fifteen lessees, possibly measuring one hundred aruras (fifty soccer fields or twenty-five hectares). Moreover, in the summer of 554 BCE Chayutayudeny also leased fields connected with the mortuary cult of vizier Pamy. These would have been fields of very (p.96) high quality—nobody would dare allot bad fields to the mortuary cult of such a highly placed official—which may have been another reason for Chayutayudeny to call on Psamtik earlier than usual. The size of these lands may provide a clue to the connection between this lease and the archive of Djekhy & Son. It suggests that Chayutayudeny concluded this contract on behalf of the same group we met in P. BM EA 10432, and maybe even a larger one. Since the contract was found with the archive, it is likely that Djekhy either kept it in his capacity as trustee or was again among the lessees.

Egyptian land leases often mention the neighboring plots in order precisely to demarcate the area that is the subject of the lease. As evident in P. BM EA 10432, where the land was referred to only by the collective name The Palette of Khonsu, this appears not to have been a universal practice. P. Louvre E 7845A is more conventional. It says explicitly that the leased land was bordered on two sides by waterways, The Drain of Hapy the Great (a canal connecting to the Nile) and The Water of Na-Pe (in which Pe probably stands for the city of Buto in the Delta). The contract also clarifies that The Palette of Khonsu was enclosed by fields belonging to the Adoratrice of Amun, the highest priestess in Egypt.

When this lease was concluded, the Adoratrice of Amun was princess Ankhnesneferibra, the daughter of Psamtik II. She had been adopted in 595 BCE by Nitocris, the previous Adoratrice and daughter of Psamtik I. The institution of the Adoratrice of Amun was clearly used by the Saite kings from the north to strengthen their hold on the powerful priesthood of Amun in Upper Egypt. Nitocris died around 586 BCE. She was succeeded by Ankhnesneferibra, who in turn adopted Nitocris II, the daughter of Amasis. Ankhnesneferibra was to remain Adoratrice up to the conquest of Egypt by the Persians. Whether the fields of the Adoratrice mentioned in this contract were used for the cult of the deceased Nitocris I or to maintain the living Adoratrice Ankhnesneferibra doesn't really matter. These would be fields of the highest quality. No wonder the choachyte Chayutayudeny had been in a hurry to lease this land.

The conditions of the lease contract are clear. The landlord Psamtik would receive 25 percent of the harvest, including the harvest tax of the Domain of Amun. Although he refers to the land as “my fields,” he also states that the fields “have in turn been leased to me from regnal year 17 to regnal year 18.” It is therefore possible that he was acting as an official of The God's Offering of Amun, and that Chayutayudeny (p.97) Approximate location of The Palette of Khonsu, according to P. Louvre E 7845A:

Flax Djekhy 556–552 bce

The fields leased in July–August 554 BCE are marked *

was in fact leasing land that belonged to the economic department of the Domain of Amun. Psamtik and Chayutayudeny also agreed that the land would be measured—i.e., the harvest would be estimated—by the scribes of the Domain of Amun in Psamtik's name. If the harvest was lower than expected due to Chayutayudeny's mismanagement, he would have to make up the shortfall. The final clause of this contract occurs only sporadically in Egyptian lease contracts. After the harvest in regnal year 18 of Amasis, Chayutayudeny would have to abandon the fields. Since no two land lease contracts are the same and conditions were tailored to the occasion, it seems that Psamtik had experienced some trouble in the past with lessees refusing to give up the fields after their contract had ended.

The lease was signed by the scribe Petehor son of Ankhefenamun whom we only know from this contract. The Theban landlord Psamtik—named after the pharaohs from the Delta—also signed, in abnormal hieratic.

A Late Payment?

29 October 552 BCE (Papyrus Louvre E 7847)

Somewhere in the agricultural year 554–553 BCE Djekhy had also found time to do business with the otherwise unknown Pakhorkhonsu son of Namenekhamunip and Mrs. Hetepamun. His prestigious title Servant of the Place of Truth is likewise unknown. There are references to a Place of Truth in relation to cities like Memphis and Abydos. Some Egyptologists have suggested the term could refer to the Serapeum and the (p.98) tomb of Osiris, respectively. In the New Kingdom—hundreds of years earlier—the Place of Truth in the Theban necropolis was the Valley of the Kings. The Servant of the Place of Truth was a title reserved for the workmen of Deir al-Medina who cut out and decorated the royal tombs. Perhaps over the centuries it had become the name for a specific part of the Theban necropolis, like the Assasif, where many tombs from the Late Period were found, or the necropolis area as a whole. Or perhaps Pakhorkhonsu was just a choachyte who had simply come across this New Kingdom title in the Theban necropolis, a place teeming with graffiti and ancient inscriptions.

On 29 October 552 BCE, Pakhorkhonsu and Djekhy found themselves before the overseer of the necropolis Petehorresne son of Peteamunip. Petehorresne's son Peteamunip—who, we recall, was an apprentice in his father's business—was also present and would sign Pakhorkhonsu's statement as a witness (see figure 6). Apparently Pakhorkhonsu had quarreled with Djekhy about a payment the latter owed him for the field they had cultivated in 554–553 BCE. This field was called The Land of the Servant of the Place of Truth, so it must have been in Pakhor-khonsu's possession. Well over a year later the account still hadn't been settled, which is probably why both men were here today in the office of the overseer of the necropolis:

Regnal year 19, second month of the shemu season under Pharaoh l.p.h. Amasis l.p.h. The servant of the place of truth Pakhorkhonsu son of Namenekhamunip, whose mother is Hetepamun, has said to the choachyte Djekhy son of Tesmontu: “You have satisfied my heart with my share of business partner for my land, which is called The Land of the Servant of the Place of Truth, the south of which being the access to The Land (of) the Hand of God, that I cultivated, you being my business partner from regnal year 17 to regnal year 18. I have received it. My heart is satisfied with it, there being no remainder.” In the writing of the overseer of the necropolis Petehorresne 〈son of〉 Peteamunip. In the writing of Peteamunip son of Petehorresne.

The scribe Petehorresne and Djekhy were old acquaintances. Djekhy would visit his office from time to time as a result of his business activities. In 568 BCE Petehorresne drew up a quitclaim for Djekhy (P. Louvre E 7861). In 559 BCE he wrote P. Louvre E 7848 after the quarrel about (p.99) the choachytes' rights to service the mummies in a tomb that may have been owned by Djekhy and his business partners.

Petehorresne was trained in the local Theban scribal tradition, meaning that he wrote abnormal hieratic. We have, however, seen above how he adapted the early demotic formula, “You have satisfied my heart”—never seen in abnormal hieratic—for his own use in P. Louvre E 7861: “You have satisfied my heart with your oath in the presence of Khonsuemwasneferhotep, from today onward,” and here in P. Louvre E 7847: “You have satisfied my heart with my share of business partner for my land.” He was so happy with this trouvaille that he also taught it to his son Peteamunip. In a quitclaim written by the latter in 547 BCE for the choachyte Rery, Djekhy's brother, the same formula—creatively adapted—is seen once again (P. Cairo CG 30657): “You have satisfied my heart with all things.” In this manner early demotic, imported from the Delta, slowly but surely gained a foothold in the abnormal hieratic tradition in distant Thebes.

The Hand of God

The southern neighbor of the field owned by Pakhorkhonsu gave access to another plot called The Land (of) the Hand of God. The Hand of God dates as far back as the Middle Kingdom. It was mainly associated with Hathor, the goddess of dance and sex. The ivory and wooden castanets used by female dancers would be hand-shaped, subtly stressing the erotic connotation still associated with dance today. In the Twenty-fifth Dynasty the title Hand of God was added to the epithets of the Adoratrice of Amun, the daughter of the king and the highest priestess in the land. It was also a title that left very little to the imagination. In one of the Egyptian cosmogonies the god Atum is standing on the primeval hill, creating a divine ennead (the nine principal gods) through masturbation. In the Theban cosmogony this role was taken over by Amun. The Adoratrice of Amun—the Hand of God—in turn was the bride of Amun playing a vital part in this (ritual) creation. (p.100)


(1) This is the case in P. Louvre E 7845A, in which a single tenant rents more fields than the fifteen lessees from P. BM EA 10432 combined.

(2) In 2003–2004 one average hectare in Egypt yielded approximately 8.54 tons, which is more than 16,000 liters.

(3) Malinine in Revue ďÉgyptologie 8 (1951): P. Louvre E 7833, 7844, and 7845A; Hughes, Saite Demotic Land Leases (1952): P. BM EA 10432, P. Louvre E 7833, 7836, 7837, 7839, 7844, and 7845A; Malinine, Choix de textes juridiques en hiératique anormal et en démotique (1953): P. Louvre E 7836, 7837, 7839, and 7843. After Malinine's death a transcription in hieroglyphs of P. Louvre E 7846 was published in Revue ďÉgyptologie 34 (1982–83). In 1983 Malinine's former students published Choix de textes juridiques en hiératique anormal et en démotique II.

(4) Note that this fraction also occurs in the tax receipt P. Louvre E 7841, quoted above in “Into the Flax Business.”

(5) The Benben stone was a holy stone kept in the temple of Heliopolis, symbolizing the primeval mound on which Atum created the world through masturbation.