Ancient Egypt: History and culture
Ancient Egypt: Letters concerning livestock and agriculture
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Letters concerning livestock and agriculture


Ostracon Gardiner 5

To the guardian Khay.
To the point: as soon as my letter reaches you, you will start paying off and you will buy that which is connected with (the goddess) Mri.s-gr.t, namely, you will not select for buying just any old bull and you will not select for buying just any small cattle, and just any old dog, and just any old pig, and just any head of cattle. You are one who creates criminal plots with his own mouth (or: whit his own utterance).
As for the
mnt measurement of fat, is it authorized? You have consumed a great deal of fat, your ability for consuming fat is most unique.
I am (a) powerful controller of the (interior). Therefore, if you start wrangling again, I will get involved in your investigation and I shall throw you out of your (office). Anyhow, what are you capable of doing, here, in this holy village, O man of (greed) ? I am determined to encounter you even if it means going to your village.
Sarah Israelit-Groll A sense-equivalence translation of ostracon Gardiner 5 from Studies in Egyptology, Jerusalem 1990
- -Mri.s-gr.t: Meretseger was a local deity, guardian of the necropolis in the Valley of the Kings.

Papyrus Berlin 8523

The troop captain, the scribe Shedsukhonsu [Sd-sw-xnsw (?)] of the sanctuary of Khonsu to the Nubian serfPainebenadjed [pAy-nb-n-aDd (?)]
In life, prosperity, and health, by the grace of Amon-Re, king of the gods, your good lord, he will grant you life, prosperity, and health.
To the point: Indeed, it was after I had told you: 'I will not allow you to plow (the field) once more', that I returned to Thebes.
After Sarah Israelit-Groll A sense-equivalence translation of ostracon Gardiner 5 from Studies in Egyptology, Jerusalem 1990, p.369
See, my wife, lady of my house told me: "Do not take this field from Painebenadjed. Let him have it and plough it."
When you receive my letter, you will tend this field and not be careless about it. You will weed and plough it. One arura of the land shall be planted with vegetables.
If anyone challenges you (concerning the land), you will go to Wer-djehuti, grain-accountant in the temple of Osiris, taking this letter. I have given you my field of fresh land and my marshy field. Keep this letter for authorization.
It is for the one from Kush, Painebenadjed.
21st dynasty
-serf: Egyptian terms of servitude are difficult to translate (cf. Slavery). Hafemann [1] translates it as military tenant.
-my wife, lady of my house told me: women had at times considerable influence on matters which did not concern directly their own domain - the household. In this case the wife seems to have been the owner of the plot in question giving instructions to her husband who administered her property.
-weed: lit. carry off its reeds [1]. Reeds, once established, are very difficult to exterminate in well watered soil.
-arura: about 2700 m²
-Wer-djehuti: Ser-djehuti [1]
-temple of Osiris: temples were the repositories of land and other registers.
-I have given you: lit. I have given him [1]
-fresh land: apparently land not cultivated before.
-marshy field: lit. muddy land, possibly alluvial. [1]

Papyrus Turin 1976

To the point: The magistrates of Thebes sent two messengers to seize the she-donkey which you handed over to me, but I overcame them and I rescued the she-donkey (lit. her) and I sent her to you by the scribe Weramen (wr-imn). Look, I have seen a he-donkey with the right qualities in their possession. However, I'm in the process of selecting the most adequate donkey, and you will receive it. Alas, its face shows signs of maturity, but you will not seek argument. It is in accordance with the reserved side of your nature that you will act. I will select the most adequate (donkey) and you will treat it fairly. Act in a fair way ...! ... It is to you that I am sending the sack of emmer and the various items with whose acquisition I am involved.
Sarah Israelit-Groll A sense-equivalence translation of ostracon Gardiner 5 from Studies in Egyptology, Jerusalem 1990, p.395f
-Asses were the main beast of burden. Some care would have been taken in their breeding.
-In normal times a sack of wheat cost a deben or two. During the late 20th dynasty the price rose to eight deben and more, falling again later.

Ostracon Gardiner 152

Year 23 ... that day, I offered for purchase the bull to Neferhor (nfr-Hr), and he offered it for sale to the chief of the crew Khonsu (xnsw) on the 22nd day, and then in the first month of the summer, on the 29th day, he came to me to the sanctuary of Amenhotep (imn-Htp) l.p.h, carrying the she-ass and he said to me: "I have selected this young she-ass in exchange for your bull in the presence of X, Y and Z...
Sarah Israelit-Groll A sense-equivalence translation of ostracon Gardiner 5 from Studies in Egyptology, Jerusalem 1990, p.399
-During the New Kingdom a bull would have cost from about 50 deben upwards. Asses were priced somewhat more cheaply, although she-asses were probably more expensive.
-in the presence of: The wise preferred to have witnesses to a transaction of such a magnitude (several monthly corn rations of a worker, the main constituent of his income).


[1] After a transliteration and German translation on the Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae website, Altägyptisches Wörterbuch, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften => Briefe => Briefe nach dem Neuen Reich => Verwaltung/Alltag => Briefe diverser Herkunft => pBerlin 8523: Brief des Sched-su-Chonsu an Pai-neb-en-adjed, I. Hafemann, ed.

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© October 2005

- Alternative spellings:
Khay: Khai, Chai
Shedsukhonsu: Shed-su-khonsu
Khonsu: Khons, Chons
Weramen: Uramen, Uramun, Weramun