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Ancient Egyptian texts: Letter from Wenenamen to Amenkhau concerning the enslavement of a woman
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Letter from Wenenamen to Amenkhau concerning the enslavement of a woman

Wenenamen, builder of the temple of Amen-Re, king of gods, is greeting the merchant Amenkhau of the temple of Amen-Re, king of gods: In life-prosperity-health and in the favour of Amen-Re, king of gods. Daily I pray to Amen, to Mut, to Khonsu that you may live, be healthy and young. - pBM EA 75015 (Bankes I)
Letter written on papyrus, 20th dynasty
probably from Upper Egypt
Further the following: You left for Thebes after I had handed over to you the slave woman Ta-net-u-en-djedet with the slave Gemamen, her son, and after you had given them to the fisherman Pamershenuti and the retainer Hori who told you as I was standing (there): "This woman has been taken by kidnapping," they said to you. They told you: "We shall come to an agreement with the man who has given her to you," thus they spoke to you.
But you said: "(This is a) lie. I have received this woman from the slave master Ikhteripai," thus you spoke to them, that I had paid according to her worth. This they said to you: "We shall come to an agreement with the man who has given her to you," so they spoke to you.
-slave woman: Hm.t, generally rendered as slave woman, but at times also as servant. In the context of this letter we may safely think of her as being enslaved after having been kidnapped.
-slave: Hm male slave
-kidnapping: TAw m-TAw.t, lit. stealing (or robbing) stealthily.
-slave master: Hr.j-mr.t, lit. supervisor of the 'meret'. Meret are often thought to have a serf-like status.
-worth: lit. silver (HD)
So I went together with you to the chief of the Teher-warriors Ihepy, your superior, and he told me: "Leave (forget about) the servant woman. She has been assigned to the merchant Amenkhau," thus he said.
So I put my hope in you, for I have handed over the servant woman to you until today. And behold, now you have sent to me the scribe Iuefenamen to tell me: "Your servant has been kidnapped just as many who were captured." thus you let me know by sending me (the message). You have sent me (a message) despite you knowing that one has come and taken away my servant woman, when I was inside the walls of the Mut(-temple) and ////// people with the words: "She is our sister," thus they spoke about her.
So you should settle the matter when you are here. When my letter reaches you, settle the matter of the servant woman ///// [go to (?)] /////// the people who have kidnapped her. If they are strong (willed) towards you and you learn that the servant has been captured, and it is this master of servants who has captured her, then force him to hand over to you a servant woman as compensation, who, just as he,r embraces a child, and you should bring them south when you come.
Behold, I have sent you (this message) to give you an instruction. And now you know all the good things I have done for you. Do not forget them, for if you disobey, your guilt will seize you.
-Teher-warriors: twhr, Asiatic mercenaries.
-servant woman: here bAk.t, servant from bAk, working,rendering service etc.
-kidnapped: HAq, lit. plundered, captured.
-She is our sister: Ta-net-u-en-djedet was lucky to have had relatives who discovered her whereabouts.
The builder Weneniamen of the temple of Amen-[Re] to the merchant Amenkhau of the temple of Amen[-Re].

After a transliteration and German translation by I. Hafemann on the Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae website
aaew => Altägyptisches Wörterbuch, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften => Briefe => Briefe des Neuen Reiches => Verwaltung/Alltag => Briefe aus Theben => pBM EA 75015 (Bankes I): Brief des Wen-en-Imen an Imen-chau


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© November 2007