Contract for Sale of Wheat with Deferred Delivery (Demotic)

Contract for Sale of Wheat with Deferred Delivery (Demotic)
Papyrus; L. 34.6 cm; W. 16.9 cm
Saqqara; February 14, 108 BCE
Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund; Brooklyn Museum: 37.1802e
© Brooklyn Museum Photograph

This contract is part of a small archive belonging to the merchant Harmachis son of Herienouphis. All were officially registered in the sanctuary of Anoubis in the great Serapeum at Saqqara (west of Memphis), near Harmachis’s home, in the winter of 109/108 BCE.

In all of them Harmachis lends money, but it is to be repaid after the harvest with quantities of agricultural products—wheat and oil—rather than with currency. Each agreement was to be accompanied by a separate document acknowledging the loan of money, but these have not been preserved, if they were ever actually written. Although Harmachis was a merchant, it is likely that the modest amounts of grain and oil were for personal use, and that these documents essentially record credit operations.

Loan contracts such as these are not found in earlier Demotic papyri, and they are almost certainly modeled on Greek loans with repayment in goods. They show the continued ability of Demotic notaries to absorb new concepts into their legal and documentary framework after more than two centuries of Greek rule.

R.H. Pierce. Three Demotic Papyri in the Brooklyn Museum. Symbolae Osloenses, XXIV. Oslo, 1972.