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Ancient Egypt: Records concerning property
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Records concerning property

Will of Wep-em-nefert

The year of joining of the two lands, third month of the winter season, twenty-ninth day.
The sole confident Wep-em-nefert, he says: I give to my eldest son, the ritualist Iby, the endowment of the northern burial chamber, together with the northern chapel of offerings which are in my house of eternity in the necropolis, that he may be buried therein and that offerings may come forth to him at the voice continually there, he being the honoured one. No brother has claim to it, no wife, no children have right to it except my eldest son, the ritualist Iby, to whom I have given them.
Made in his own presence, while living on his two feet, he made the will.

Source: Dorothy L.Eady The oldest will in the world? [1]



Old Kingdom
  The will has been inscribed on the wall of Wep-em-nefert's tomb in the necropolis of Giza.
  his, he: Wep-em-nefert

Tomb Inscription of Nika-ankh

A depiction shows Nika-ankh's parents, both named, and himself standing near his mother, labeled:
Her eldest son, the Steward of the Great House, King's Acquaintance [Nika-ankh]
A decree [which the King's Acquaintance Nika-]ankh made with his own mouth, he being alive, concerning his house:
'As for all my children to whom I conveyed as possession which they may consume, I did not allow that [any] of them have the legal right [to sell what I conveyed] to him in a transfer document or as a gift(?) to anyone except to his (own) son to whom he will give it. They shall act under the authority of my eldest son as they make for me my own property (for) I have appointed my heir against the day of my traveling to the West (<may it be> as far off as possible). These ka-priests whom I appointed under his authority, he is the one who sets them in order for the funerary offerings of every day, for the beginning of the month, for the half-month, for every festival of the year. But I do not empower him to take them to any work except the funerary offerings of every day. If he takes them for any work which does not pertain to these funerary offerings for me, I do not empower him over these ka-priests concerning any work except my funerary offerings.'

Kurt Sethe, Urkunden des Alten Reichs, Urkunden des ägyptischen Altertums, Vol. 1 (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1903) pp. 161-62


Old Kingdom
  traveling to the West: dying

Act of transfer
Stela of Senmose

Year 21, 3rd month of Winter, day 25, under the Majesty of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt Thutmose (III). Act of transfer [which the male-]nurse of the prince Wadjmose, Senmose made on behalf of his wife and [his children], the list thereof: his wife Hudjer, [his son Sa], his daughter Ta-ir[y], [his daughter Sat-Amon, his daughter ...]:
[I, Senmose, give all my property via tra[nsfer document(?)] to my wife Hudjer as long as she lives, but without thereby letting [that she dispose of the property except to pay(?) a] ritual priest. After the old age of my wife Hudjer, [all my property] wi[ll be divided among my son Sa], my daughter Ta-iry, my daughter Sat-Amon, and my daughter .... [Thus they will have all my property after the lifetime of my wi]fe and my (own) li[fe]time ....
... was beaten and fled; suit was repeated [against(?) my transfer document ... intervened] saying: "Put all the property of Senmose under the feet [of his wife ...]. [And after the old age of the wife of Sen]mose, his property will be divided among his children ...."
... I do not have the intention; I did not act as a child of his in order to reach the like of this. All his [chi]ldren sa[id ...]. I follow(?) saying to my son Sa and his wife "... [gu]ard lest a document be made concerning your crimes." But they said together: "[Don't cause that one work with false lapis lazuli]; rather, cause that one work with real lapis lazuli!"
Then she (i.e. the wife) said to me, "There is not .... [Remember(?) (Nahari]na [where I lived(?)] in a village with you, I being Nubian and you Syrian ...."
... guard at the Palace since Thutmose (I), I being in the service of my Lord [I address(?) to my Lord a request in these terms: "May] it be or[dered] that what my Lord ordered the first time be applied!" The Overseer of the Coun[cil (of the Palace) ordered(?) that it be done according to the desire of the guar]d of Pharaoh. It was presented to the Vizier User to carry out everything which was decided.
By the life [of the royal ka] of Thutmose (III) [and by the life of Amon-Re, King of Karna]k, if any sons or any daughters, any brothers or any sisters, any relatives come to contest this transfer document which I made on behalf of my 4 children, don't listen to them in any royal [registry office] to which they may appeal. If this transfer document is impeded in its implementation, it is forbidden to anyone to change it forever.
[It was sealed] by the Vizier's registry office today, before the Overseer of the City, Vizier ..., [and it was registered(?) ...] by the scribe Hori.

Aristide Théodorides, Le testament dans l'Egypte ancienne (essentiellement d'après le Papyrus Kahoun VII, 1, la Stèle de Sénimosé et le Papyrus Turin 2021), RIDA 17 (1970) 117-216



New Kingdom
  Year 21: c.1483 BCE
  give all my property ... to my wife Hudjer: The wife is given the usufruct of the whole communal property. She has also to take care of her husbands mortuary endowments, a role generally performed by the eldest son if he was grown-up.
  all my property will be divided among ... : The division of property among all the children was common practice. The eldest son often inherited a larger part, sons generally received better portions than daughters.
  Naharina: Land in westernmost Mesopotamia
  my Lord: the king

Papyrus Boulaq 10

List of objects ... which he gave to the Lady Tagemy, his mother:
1 burial-place after he had given her coffin to ..., makes 40 deben.
Again: what he gave to her: 1 coffin for her burial, while he had (also) made the burial-place for Huy-nofre, his father.
But see, the children of the Lady Tagemy contest this today, in order to claim her possessions. But they are not those who buried their father, nor did her children bury (her). (Still) it is her property which they claim today, although they did not bury together with my father, when he buried his father and his mother.
'Let the possessions be given to him who buries,' says the Law of Pharaoh.
My Good Lord, see, I am in the presence of the officials; cause that the right thing be done.
See, the landed property of Taynehsy was given to Sa-wadjty, when she was buried, while he gave her his coffin. One gave him her share in the presence of the officials, for it was King Amonhotep who gave it to him in the court.

J. J. Janssen, P. W. Pestman, Burial and Inheritance in the Community of the Necropolis Workmen at Thebes (Pap. Boulaq X and O. Petrie 16), JESHO 11 (1968) 137-70


New Kingdom
  deben: metal weight, about 90 grams. Used to assess value in the absence of money.
  Again: repeating items in legal documents was a device often used.

Ostracon Petrie 16

List of what the workman Nebsemen, my father, made for the lady Iner:
1 wooden decorated coffin, for her share, which consists of the lower storehouse.
But see, Wab, her daughter, (now) comes in order to take a share with the workman [Huy-]nofre in the storehouse. May my lord ... take care to let her share be given to me, <saying:> 'Share it (i.e. storehouse), you children of Nebsemen, for he it is who has buried her.'
List of objects which the workman Sa-wadjty made in order to bury the lady Taynehsy, his mother, while his brothers and sisters did not help him:
1 wooden coffin, decorated and treated with oil, makes 33 deben ;
1 small hollowed inner coffin, makes 20 deben.
May my lord take care to let it be shared with me because of these (objects), since he (the workman Sa-wadjty) took care of her when she was dead.

Jac. J. Janssen and P. W. Pestman, Burial and Inheritance in the Community of the Necropolis Workmen at Thebes (Pap. Bulaq X and O. Petrie 16), JESHO 11 (1968) 137-70


New Kingdom

Ostracon Gardiner 55

As for the possessions which he gave, (they are) the 2/3 which were given to me when he divided with their mother, her share being in her own possession. Everything which is in (my) house belongs to my wife and her children. She is the one who brought it ... I having done it in order to claim(?).

J. Cerny, T. Eric Peet, A Marriage Settlement of the Twentieth Dynasty, an Unpublished Document from Turin, JEA 13 (1927) 30-39


New Kingdom
  2/3: Two thirds of the communal property of a couple belonged to the husband (or his heirs), one third to the wife.

Loan of grain
Papyrus Louvre E 3228 [2]

Day 25 of the 3rd month of the season of inundation of the 13th year.
On this day the funerary priest Padibastet, son of Padiimenipet, has said to the priest of Amen and scribe of the royal correspondance Neskhonsuwenekh, son of Djedhor: "I shall give you (?) 22½ sacks of wheat measured in "domestic bushels", on day 30 of the 4th month of inundation of this 13th year.
If I do not observe this appointed time these 22½ sacks will bear interest regularly beginning from the 13th year .... I shall return them to you without protest, as truly as Amen lives and the king lives, may he be in good health and may Amen grant him victory, I shall not revoke this undertaking."

This was followed by the signatures of seven witnesses.
After a French translation by Michel Malinine


About 704 BCE
The contract is crossed out, without doubt as a mark of it having been executed.

Papyrus BM 10592

"Year 25, 2nd month of [Inundation, day] 25(?) of Pharaoh Ptolemy (V) .... The lector-priest of the necropolis Ta-'ankh in Siut and scribe of the divine rolls of the necropolis Ta-'ankh in Siut, Pa-ti-Atum, son of Tot, his mother being Tasheren-Tot, said to the woman, daughter of an annuitized woman, Tati-Iyemhotep, daughter of Pa-ti-Atum, her mother being Tawa:
'I have given to you half of my 1/4 share which amounts to 1/8 of my house and its grounds and its gateway (belonging) to Tot, son of Metry, my father, in the southwest district of the Nome of Siut (its complete boundaries: south ..., north ..., east ..., west ...) which reached me in the name of my father Tot, son of Metry, of which the woman, daughter of an annuitized woman, Tasheren-Tot, daughter of Pa-ti-Atum, her mother being Tasheren-Tot, your sister, owns the other half share of my 1/4, making 1/8, of my house and its grounds and its gateway and of which its specification and its boundaries are written above, so as to complete the total of my 1/4 share aforesaid. I have given you the 1/4 share of the house and its grounds and its gateway, the specification whereof is written above; it is yours. No one at all shall be able to possess it except you. Any man who shall proceed against you with respect to it in order to take it from you, saying "This is not hers" in my name or that of a son or daughter or any man at all shall pay you 300 silver pieces ... in one day within two days in the month of taking action against you with respect to them which shall be made, he being far from you concerning it compulsorily and without delay.'
while the lector-priest of the necropolis of Siut and scribe of the divine rolls of the necropolis of Siut, the eldest son of an annuitized woman, Tot, son of Pa-ti-Atum, his mother being Tasheren-Isis, and Tef-Hapy, son of Pa-ti-Atum, his mother being Tawa, being 2 people, were present, saying:
'Write: "Accept the aforesaid document from Pa-ti-Atum, son of Tot, his mother being Tasheren-Tot, our father; let him act in accordance with everything above; our hearts are satisfied therewith. We have nothing whatsoever against you with respect to your 1/8 share of the house and its gateway and its grounds from today onwards forever."'
Written by Hori, son of Pati-Isis, who writes at Siut and its suburbs in the name of the priests of Wepwawet and the gods Adelphoi, the gods Euergetai and the gods Philopatores and the gods Epiphaneis.
Herbert Thompson, A Family Archive from Siut from Papyri in the British Museum, including an Account of a Trial before the Laocritae in the year B.C. 170 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1934) pp. 65-67


Ptolemaic Period

Papyrus Rylands XI

Year 21, 3rd month of Winter, of Pharaoh Ptolemy.
The Lector Priest of the Baboon Pamerih, son of Thoth-iirtisu, whose mother is Tashere-khomnt, said to the woman Ty-Hor, daughter of Horsiese, whose mother is Tawabset:
'You have satisfied my heart with the purchase price of everything and all goods which belong to me together with those which I shall acquire, whether house, open land, fields, revenue, male or female slave, silver, gold, bronze, clothing, any seed, cow, donkey, any small flocks, any court document, any document concerning a free man, any house inventory, any room furnishings, any household equipment, together with my house which is built and roofed, which is in the northern quarter of Thebes in "The-House-of-the-Cow." Its neighbors: its south, the house of the Shrine-opener of Amonope in the West of Thebes Pati-neferhotep, son of Iertu-rudj; its north, the house of the Scribe Pati-Amon-nisut-tawy, son of Pa-khel-Khonsu, and the house of the Shrine-opener of Amon-ope in the West of Thebes Pati-Amon-ope, son of Nes-Min, which is in the possession of the woman Wen-men, the daughter of Pati-Amon-ope, amounting to two houses, they being built and roofed, the street of Pharaoh being between them; east, the house of the Lector Priest of the Necropolis of Jeme Horsiese, son of Pati-Amon-ope, which is built and roofed, its western wall making for me a party-wall; its west, the house of the woman Ta-heb, the daughter of Pati-neferhotep, which is built and roofed, my window opening to the west into the aforementioned house. Total of the neighbors of the entire house.
Together with my share of the burials which belong to me on the necropolis of Jeme together with my share of the burials which belong to the Lector Priest of the Baboon Thoth-iirtisu, son of Djeho, my father.
I have given them to you; they are yours. They are your goods, your house which is built and roofed, whose neighbors are written above, together with your share of the burials which belong to me on the necropolis of Jeme, together with your share of the burials which belong to the Lector Priest of the Baboon Thoth-iirtisu, son of Djeho, my father.
I have received their value from you in silver, it being complete, without any remainder. My heart is satisfied therewith. I have no (legal) claim on you with regard to them. No man at all, myself included, shall have legal control over them from today onward. He who will come against you concerning them, in my name or in any name at all, I shall cause that he be far from you and I shall cause that they be clear for you from any document, any court document, anything at all, on any day.
To you belong their documents and their court documents at any place in which they are, every document which was made concerning them together with every document in which I am found in the right by means of them. They are yours, together with their rights. You are the one by means of whom I am justified therein. The oath and the legal testimony which will be incumbent upon you in the courthouse to make me fulfill the above document which I have made for you, I shall do it. I being yours while I am alive, I being yours while I am dead, you being the one who has legal control of my being put in the (embalming) tent and my burial, without any court contest or anything at all with you.'
Written by ....
F. Ll. Griffith, Catalogue of Demotic Papyri in the John Rylands Library, Manchester, 3 Vols. (Manchester: University Press, 1909) pp. 122-23


Ptolemaic Period


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-[1] Two articles by Dorothy L. Eady, published in RSUE 6-7, 1989-1990
-[2] Acte de prêt de blé (Louvre E 3228 (B))

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March 2004
Update: July 2005