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Djekhy & Son

Djekhy & Son: Doing Business in Ancient Egypt

Koenraad Donker van Heel
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Djekhy & Son
    Book Description:

    Djekhy & Son, two businessmen living 2,500 years ago in the densely populated neighborhoods built around the great temple of Amun at Karnak, worked as funerary service providers in the necropolis on the western bank of the Nile. They were also successful agricultural entrepreneurs, cultivating flax and grain. In 1885, the German Egyptologist August Eisenlohr acquired a unique collection of papyri that turned out to be Djekhy’s archive of mainly legal documents. Using this rich trove of evidence, augmented by many other sources, the author has painted a vivid picture of life in ancient Egypt between 570 and 534 bce, during the little-known Saite period. Approaching the subject from both business and personal aspects, he gives us a fresh look at some facets of ancient Egypt that have mostly been hidden from view—such as putting up one’s children as security for a loan.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-345-1
    Subjects: History, Business

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. [Map]
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  8. Chronology
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  9. 1 People
    (pp. 1-10)

    Djekhy son of Tesmontu was born in Thebes (Karnak) somewhere around 590 bce, in the deep south of Egypt. His full name was Djedkhonsuiufankh, which was a good Theban name. As happened so often with the ancient Egyptians, this was a theophoric name, meaning that it contained the name of a deity: ‘Khonsu says that he will live.’ But in daily life and official contracts he called himself Djekhy, just as Amunhotep was often shortened to Huy or Ipy, and—in the Dutch East Indies in the 1930s—my father Govert (Goofy) became Opy.

    Egypt was not a stable country...

  10. 2 Papyri
    (pp. 11-34)

    In the winter of 1884–85, the German Egyptologist August Eisenlohr traveled through Egypt, one of the many Europeans who did so during that period. Eisenlohr—who should not be confused with his namesake, the politician August Eisenlohr (1833–1916)—was just over fifty years old. He could look back on a colorful career. He had begun by studying theology, but soon transferred to science and became a manufacturer of chemical products, a career he pursued for some years. And then one day—when he was already past thirty—he decided to become an Egyptologist.

    Eisenlohr was not destined to...

  11. 3 Trust: Djekhy 570–549 BCE
    (pp. 35-56)

    19 October 570 bce (Papyrus BM EA 10113)

    Papyrus BM EA 10113 is the first official document mentioning Djekhy son of Tesmontu. It is a contract in which Djekhy’s debtor promises to repay a sum of money within a specified time. Djekhy may have been twenty-something at the time. Papyrus BM EA 10113 was sold in March 1837 during an auction of the collection of Giovanni d’Athanasi by Leigh Sotheby. This papyrus was only kept in the archive of Djekhy & Son for the short duration of the loan. After the loan was repaid, it would be returned to the...

  12. 4 Water: Djekhy 559 BCE
    (pp. 57-72)

    27 September 559 bce (Papyrus Louvre E 7848)

    The ancient Egyptians were not so very different from us. Most could probably not be bothered about great cultural achievements like the pyramids, the Book of the Dead, and other elevated theological concepts. These would always remain the domain of a small elite. The lives of ancient Egyptians were certainly no easier than the lives of people today. They did have a much shorter life expectancy, but this is a relatively recent difference: even in the Netherlands, life expectancy did not exceed forty years as recently as 1850.

    One suspects that Djekhy’s...

  13. 5 Flax: Djekhy 556–552 BCE
    (pp. 73-100)

    December 556–January 555 bce (Papyrus BM EA 10432)

    The office of the priest of Amun-Ra King of Gods, Psamtik son of Ankhpakhrat became very crowded one day in the winter of 556–555 bce, between 5 December and 4 January to be precise. This office was probably hidden somewhere in the vast compound of Amun in Karnak. The weather was cool, twenty degrees Celsius perhaps. Psamtik stood face-to-face with no fewer than fifteen men, all wanting to lease the same flax fields. Some may have been accompanied by their eldest sons (who would one day run the family business)....

  14. 6 Grain: Iturech 550–536 BCE
    (pp. 101-114)

    After 550 bce (Papyrus Louvre E 7854)

    Around the middle of the sixth century bce, Djekhy son of Tesmontu vanishes from the stage. We do not know whether he died or was pensioned off to participate in the family business only from a distance. By this time he would have been at least forty years old, which was rather elderly in Saite Egypt. Many friends from his youth would probably be dead by now. Chances are that Djekhy himself—if he was still alive—was suffering from the guinea worm disease (dracunculiasis) caused by drinking contaminated water, or the omnipresent...

  15. 7 Trust: Iturech 542–535 BCE
    (pp. 115-132)

    January 542–July 538 bce (Papyrus Louvre E 7840) The Theban choachytes were all members of a local association. P. Louvre E 7840 is the oldest evidence that such associations existed. There also exist later demotic papyri dealing with similar clubs, among which one of the most famous is P. Berlin 3115, written between 109 and 106 bce to record important decisions made by the Theban choachytes in the second century bce.

    On 26 April 109 bce, during the reign of Cleopatra III and Ptolemy IX Soter, eighteen Theban choachytes met, probably in Djeme. They called themselves the choachytes of...

  16. 8 People: Iturech 539 BCE
    (pp. 133-138)

    March–April 539 bce (Papyrus Louvre E 7832)

    One day in the spring of 539 bce—between 6 March and 5 April—Iturech and a man called Hor son of Petiese and Mrs. Tayuau met, probably at the office of the scribe Nehemsukhonsu, along with eleven witnesses.

    The scribe Nehemsukhonsu (‘Khonsu has saved him’) is otherwise unknown. Egyptian scribes often added their title to their signature, but he did not. It is a shame, because a title often indicates whether someone worked for a specific temple or government office. Iturech, one of the stakeholders, signed the document in person.¹ It...

  17. 9 Earth: Iturech 536–534 BCE
    (pp. 139-144)

    October–November 536 bce (Papyrus Louvre E 7836) The cattle keeper of the Domain of Montu Petemontu son of Pawakhamun was a preferred supplier of Djekhy & Son. He is known from an earlier visit to the scribes of the Domain of Amun in the district of Coptos in May 536 bce. He was there to pay the harvest tax for the 537–536 season, together with his own brother and the owner of the land, the choachyte Iturech son of Djekhy (P. Louvre E 7834). We also met him above in P. Louvre E 7833 and 7837 from 535...

  18. 10 Water: Iturech 536 BCE
    (pp. 145-148)

    November–December 536 bce (Papyrus Louvre E 7843)

    The year 536 bce had been a rather hectic business year for Iturech, or at least one that was very well documented in P. Louvre E 7834, 7836, 7838, and 7843. Choachytes needed to collect as many mummies as possible. Many mummies meant much work, and much work meant high income. In 536 Iturech had an interest in at least five tombs in the Theban necropolis on the west bank of the Nile (Table 8).

    The location of these tombs is unknown, even though tomb [5] may have been thecachetteat...

  19. 11 Cattle: Djekhy 533 BCE
    (pp. 149-150)

    29 November–29 December 533 bce (Papyrus Louvre E 7850)

    In the winter of 533 bce, the overseer of the necropolis Peteamun son of Teos—another member of the famous Theban family of scribes described above in “The Saite Restoration” (he is the son of Teos son of Petehorresne)—dictated an official letter to his superior, a god’s father of Amun called Djekhy. We know that this is not the same Djekhy as the first known owner of the archive of Djekhy & Son, because he vanishes somewhere around 550 bce. However, the fact that P. Louvre E 7850 is...

  20. 12 Ink
    (pp. 151-172)

    This is actually the wrong question. Readers who have made it this far should by now have at least some idea of the importance of hieratic and demotic to our knowledge of ancient Egypt. The real question is: what else can we learn from it?

    To answer this we will return to the village of Deir al-Medina. This site has produced many thousands of ostraca telling us all about everyday life in New Kingdom Egypt, at least for this village. The village itself was first excavated between 1905 and 1909 by the Italians under Ernesto Schiaparelli. Many of the ostraca...

  21. Notes
    (pp. 173-176)
  22. Indexes
    (pp. 177-194)