Ancient Egypt: History and culture
Ancient Egypt: The freeing and adopting of slaves
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Adoption Papyrus

Adoption of Nanufe by her husband Neb-nufe

Year 1, 3rd month of Summer, day 20, under the Majesty of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt Ramesses (XI). On this day, proclamation to Amun of the shining forth of this noble god, he arising and shining forth and making offering to Amun.
Thereupon Neb-nufe, my husband, made a writing for me, the musician of Seth Nanufe, and made me a daughter of his, and wrote down for me all he possessed, having no son or daughter apart from myself. 'All profit that I have made with her, I will bequeath it to Nanufe, my wife, and if <any of> my own brothers or sisters arise to confront her at my death tomorrow or thereafter and say "Let my brother's share be given (to me) ---." '
Before many and numerous witnesses: ...
Behold, I have made the bequest to Rennufe, my wife, this day before Huy-irymu, my sister.'
New Kingdom
As an offspring the wife's inheritance of the whole of her husband's/adoptive father's possessions could not be contested by the husband's relatives.
- before Huy-irymu, my sister: The husband's sister witnesses the signing of the will, thus agreeing to it.

The freeing of slaves

Year 28, 1st month of Inundation, day 10, under the Majesty of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Ramesses (XI). On this day, declaration made by the stable-master Neb-nufe and his wife the musician of Seth of Spermeru Rennufe, to wit:
'We purchased the female slave Dini-huiry and she gave birth to these three children, one male and two female, in all three. And I (i.e. Rennufe) took them and nourished them and brought them up, and I have reached this day with them without their doing evil towards me, but they dealt well with me, I having no son or daughter except them. And the stable-master Padiu entered my house and took Ta-Amon-no, their elder sister, to wife, he being related to me and being my younger brother. And I accepted him for her and he is with her at this day.
Now behold, I have made her a freewoman of the land of Pharaoh, and if she bears either son or daughter, they shall be freemen of the land of Pharaoh in exactly the same way, they being with the stable-master Padiu, this younger brother of mine. And the children shall be with their elder sister in the house of Padiu, this stable-master, this younger brother of mine, and today I make him a son of mine exactly like them.' -  I have made her a freewoman of the land of Pharaoh, and if she bears either son or daughter, ... : children inherited their social position from their parents.
And she said:
'As Amun endures, and the Ruler endures, I (hereby) make the people whom I have put on record freemen of the land of Pharaoh, and if any son, daughter, brother, or sister of their mother and their father should contest their rights, except Padiu this son of mine - for they are indeed no longer with him as servants, but are with him as younger siblings, being freemen of the land <of Pharaoh> - may a donkey copulate with him and a donkey with his wife, whoever it be that shall call any of them a servant.
- their mother and their father: their adoptive parents
- servants: slaves
- may a donkey copulate with him and a donkey with his wife: as curses go, this is one of the more memorable ones.
The social acceptance of former slaves by their neighbours was seemingly more problematical than is often thought.
And if I have fields in the country, or if I have any property in the world, or if I have merchants(?), these shall be divided among my four children, Padiu being one of them. And as for these matters of which I have spoken, they are entrusted in their entirety to Padiu, this son of mine, who dealt well with me when I was a widow and when my husband had died.'
Before many and numerous witnesses ... (both men and women).
Alan H. Gardiner, Adoption Extraordinary, JEA 26 (1940) 23-29
- they are entrusted in their entirety to Padiu: Padiu becomes the eldest son, responsible for the whole household.


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March 2004