Ancient Egypt: History and culture
Ancient Egypt: The Will of Amonkhau in Favor of His Second Wife
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The Will of Amonkhau in Favor of His Second Wife

    I stand today before the Vizier and the members of the Tribunal to announce to my children the testament that I make today in favor of the Citizeness Ineksenedjem, the woman who is now in my house. For Pharaoh has said: "Each one should do as he wishes with his property."
    I bequeath to the Citizeness Ineksenedjem, the woman who is in my house, all that I have acquired with her, namely, two male servants and two female servants, total 4, and their children. (This is) my two-thirds share in addition to her one-third share.
    And I bequeath the nine servants which fell to me in my two-thirds share with the Citizeness Tathari to my children, as well as the house of my maternal grandfather now in their possession.
    They (the children) shall not be deprived of anything that I acquired with their mother. I would (also) have given to them from what I acquired with the Citizeness Ineksenedjem, but Pharaoh has said: "Give the dowry of each woman to her."
    The Vizier said to the Priest and Overseer of Workmen Ahautinefer and the Priest Nebnefer, the children of Amonkhau who stood before him, they being the elder brothers of his children: "What do you say about the testament that the Divine-Father Amonkhau your father has stated? Is what he says true concerning these nine servants whom he says he gave to you from his two-thirds share that he divided with your mother, and (also) the house of the maternal grandfather?"
They said with one voice: "Our father is right, they are indeed in our possession."
    The Vizier said: "What do you think about this testament that your father is making for the Citizeness Ineksenedjem, this (second) wife of his?" They said: "We have heard what our father is doing. As for what he is doing, who can argue with him? It is his own property. Let him dispose of it as he wishes.
    The Vizier said: "Even if it were not his wife, but a Canaanite or Nubian woman whom he loved and to whom he gave his property, and who might annul what he has done?"
    (And they said:) "Let be given these four servants that he acquired with the Citizeness Ineksenedjem, that which he acquired with her of which he said: 'I give to her my two-thirds share in addition to her one-third share, and no son or daughter shall argue about this testament that I am making for her today.'"
    The Vizier said: "Let be done exactly as that which the Divine-Father Amonkhau has said, this Divine-Father who stands before me."
    The Vizier gave instructions to Ptahemheb, Priest and Scribe of Accounts of the Tribunal of the Temple of Ramses III, saying: "Let there be recorded the decisions that I have made on a papyrus roll in the temple of Ramses III; the same shall be done for the Great Council of Thebes.
    (Done) in the presence of many witnesses. The list thereof: (a list of 18 witnesses to this hearing follows.)

- Pap. Turin 2021
c. 1100 BCE
  Ineksenedjem: The second wife
  I have acquired with her, namely, two male servants and two female servants: The status of servants is not always clear. In this instance they were acquired rather than hired and are being passed on like chattel together with their children. (Cf. Slavery.)
  my two-thirds share in addition to her one-third share: The man seems to have owned a larger portion of the community property than the woman. The rights of men and women were not equal. In the case of inheritance of land the male offspring generally received better portions than the daughters.
  Tathari: The first wife and mother of his children.
  Give the dowry of each woman to her: Chattels which the woman brought with her into the marriage were not part of the community property.
  Divine-Father: Priestly rank. Children of priests often joined the priesthood. At least two of Amonkhau's sons had become priests themselves.
  Canaanite or Nubian: Often slaves or descendents from slaves. There was also migration of free persons from Nubia, Canaan and Libya into Egypt, the best known is the unverifiable story of the Israelites' sojourn and their exodus.
  Let be given these four servants ... : By publicly accepting the provisions of their father's will his children from the first marriage will not be able to contest it later on.
  Let there be recorded the decisions: Court decisions were recorded and stored. The Egyptian administration appears to have relied heavily on written records: Old judgments were consulted and served as the basis for future decisions; ownership of land and slaves was registered and records were kept in state archives.
  in the presence of many witnesses: Court sessions were generally accessible to the public.


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Update: January 2004