Sale of a Tomb Chapel (Demotic)

Sale of a Tomb Chapel (Demotic)
Papyrus; L. 44 cm; W. 77 cm
Drah Abu El–Naga (Thebes); November 7, 302 BCE
The Eckley B. Coxe Jr. Expedition to Drah abu el Naga (Thebes), Egypt. Directed by Clarence Stanley Fisher, 1921–1923; University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology: 29–86–505.1

© Penn Museum object 29–86–505, image #245994

This document is part of a trove of Demotic papyri from a family archive found by the Penn Museum’s archaeological expedition in 1922. They were unearthed in two jars in a Ptolemaic house built in a nineteenth-dynasty tomb at Drah` Abu el-Naga on the west bank at Thebes (modern Luxor).

The documents extend in time from 317 BCE, when Ptolemy was still officially only the governor of Egypt, down to 200 BCE. They concern the property affairs of an extended family and consist mainly of formal documents written in Demotic.

Property transfers in Demotic generally required two documents, one that records the sale (or gift) of the property, and the other in which the seller (or giver) renounces any claim on the property. The two would typically be written on the same roll of papyrus, with the list of witnesses to each. Although for convenience in displaying the two contracts they have been separated in modern times, they were originally a single piece of magnificent scale, with lavish margins of blank papyrus surrounding the beautifully written Demotic text, which occupies only a third of the available space.

M. el-Amir. A Family Archive from Thebes: Demotic Papyri in the Philadelphia and Cairo Museums from the Ptolemaic Period. Cairo, 1959.