Ancient Egypt: History and culture
Ancient Egyptian texts: Letter by Djehuti-mesu to Bu-teh-Amen concerning running an estate
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Letter by Djehuti-mesu to Bu-teh-Amen

The scribe Djehuti-mesu from the great and magnificent royal necropolis to the scribe Bu-teh-Amen and the songstress of Amen Shedu-em-duat in life, prosperity, health and favour of Amen-Re, king of gods. Daily I pray to Amen-Re-Harakhte and Harsaphes the great god, to Thoth, lord of Hermopolis, and to every god and every goddess which I pass by: May you be given life, prosperity, and health, a long lifespan, a great (and) beautiful old age. - Date: Reign of Ramses XI
-life, prosperity, health: generally shortened to l.p.h.
Further the following: I listened to all the matters concerning which you sent me (messages) by the retainer Nesu-Amen. The remarks you made concerning the matter of the green stone vessels and two bottles, about which you said: "I have had them finished" and also (the matter) of the donkeys concerning which you said: "I have put them at the disposition of the wab-priest Tjai-mehi-em-hab for transporting the grain,"–thus you spoke–what you have done is excellent. When he finishes loading the donkeys with grain, you will take possession of it, registered and in full, and you will put it into their granaries, and you will deliver them (i.e. the donkeys) to the chief of police Ser-Month in order to transport his grain which is in the field; while that which has been left in the settlement is not among it, for only that which is lying dispersed in the fields you shall have fetched, as that which is in the granaries shall remain in its place. -the matter of the green stone vessels and two bottles: living mostly in affluent Western societies, most of us have little regard for simple things like bottles and containers. In pre-industrial times such every-day utensils had to be made by hand and were thus quite expensive—valuable enough for two busy scribes like Djehuti-mesu and Bu-teh-Amen to discuss them seriously.
-donkeys: the main overland means of transportation.
-what you have done is excellent: praise for somebody else's actions is encountered much more rarely than self-praise with which the rich tried to ingratiate themselves with the gods in their tomb inscriptions.
As soon as the flood is at its height, you shall receive this barge which I have sent to you, and you shall deliver it to the fowlers-and-fishers and to the Medjai policemen. And they shall bring their remainders and you shall take possession of them, registered in full, the scribe Pa-en-ta-hut-nakht, son of Sobek, being with you, for he will take care of you when you are having the grain brought in.
And you shall take over this barge with its oars, its mast and its hogging-beam(?), and you shall take care of it, for you will find that you (can) fulfill your tasks thanks to it: transporting the timber and the charcoal. You shall take it to its place, the wood too, which ////// which the people have cut and you shall bring it to my house.
-the flood is at its height: The Nile begins rising at the beginning of July and reaches its greatest height at the beginning of September.
-Medjai policemen: originally, the Medjai were a Nubian tribe some of whom joined the Egyptian military forces in conquered Nubia during the Middle Kingdom and later the gendarmerie at the beginning of the New Kingdom. By the end of the New Kingdom the term "Medjai" was synonymous with "policeman".
-its oars, its mast: boats were often rowed on the Nile, and crews were accordingly large. When the wind was favourable a single sail was spread from its mast. (cf. Ships and Boats)
Indeed, a (busy) day is before you.
You shall look(after) the little boys and take excellent care of them, as well as of the little daughter of Hemet-Sherit, her mother and her nurse. You shall look after their needs.
And you shall look after the conscripts and guard them really well.
And you shall pay attention to the people which are in the fields and make sure that they perform their labour in the very best fashion.
And you may not allow the little boys who are at school to withdraw their hands from the writings.
And look after the people who are in my house. You shall give them clothes and not let them be naked.
You shall ask Pa-kheru to return the three garments.
-a (busy) day is before you: which is putting it mildly.
-the little boys who are at school: formal schooling was the lot of a small minority of children, generally the boys of the scribal class.
-withdraw their hands from the writings: abandon their studies
You shall take a look at the three plots on the riverbank and fell the trees standing on their elevated ground, as well as (on) the field which Nisu-Month usually cultivates. You shall clear the trees from the boundary of Pa-Re up to the fields of this boundary. -fell the trees: Hafemann suggests thinning.
You shall take care of the little daughter of Khonsu-mesu and make her write a letter and have it sent to me. And you shall not allow Hemet-sherit to lack anything, as well as Shedu-em-duat and her little boys. And tell Ta-pesesh-[(?)] that I have met Pa-[///] at the northern mountain ridge. And you shall let me know about the house in which you have found ///// and write to me if you have handed Hori's grain over to him. You shall order the courtyard(?) to be finished which should be protected by the work of fitting together (stones). You shall look out for the yoke of cows which is in the possession of the herdsman Nisu-Amen, son of Djay-hai, and you shall give them to Pai-degesh.
And you shall get water for Amen of the thrones of both lands and tell him to preserve me! And you shall not disregard ///// Pa-kamen(?), my brother. You shall pay attention to my orders and not disregard them [until (?)] the day of my return.
After a transliteration and German translation by I. Hafemann ed.
Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae website => aaew => Altägyptisches Wörterbuch, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften => Briefe => Briefe des Neuen Reiches => Verwaltung/Alltag => Briefe aus Theben => Briefwechsel des Djehuti-mesu => pLeiden I.370 => Brief des Djehuti-mesu an Bu-teh-Imen und die Sched-em-duat
-make her write a letter: literacy among females was even lower than it was among males.
-tell him to preserve me: Djehuti-mesu at the time was apparently abroad. In a letter by Bu-teh-Amen to Djehuti-mesu the writer utters the following wishes: May Amen bring you home safe and sound, so that I can lock you in my embrace; and may you return alive, safe and sound, the gods saving you from weapons and stones, arrows and every outrage which is in that land where you are, and may the gods of this land bring you down to Egypt and deliver you to Amen of the thrones of both lands, your lord l.p.h. [1]
[1] After a transliteration and German translation by I. Hafemann, Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae website => aaew => Altägyptisches Wörterbuch, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften => Briefe => Briefe des Neuen Reiches => Verwaltung/Alltag => Briefe aus Theben => Briefwechsel des Djehuti-mesu => pBM 10411 => Brief des Bu-teh-Imen an Tjary (Djehuti-mesu)

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