Affairs of Goat-herders and Goose-herders in Ancient Egypt

In later periods of ancient Egyptian history, papyri are found that are written in demotic, abnormal hieratic, or hieratic, and that record a variety of contracts – many documenting a loan.  During this time, associations were formed around  occupations, for example: goose-herders, goat-herders, donkey-drivers, ship-contractors. etc.  From earlier times,  guilds of mummifiers and undertakers, etc, are also known.

Members of these voluntary groups could stand up for one another and offered a form of joint,  non-hereditary grouping that is still found in Egypt today, called al-jamiyah al-khiriah – voluntary societies.

The following loan contracts are two examples of legal documents, the first pertaining to goat-herders and second to goose-herders:

  1. A manuscript featuring two goat-herders written in abnormal hieratic explains the new arrangement of a debt:

The goatherd Paiuiuhor son of Nesamun states to the goatherd Ityaâ that the latter has paid his (i.e. Paiuiuhor’s) debt to the goatherd Tjaynahebu and that he now owes this amount to Ityaâ.

If he tries to go back on this deal the amount owed by him will be doubled.

Source – K. Donker van Heel, ‘A day in the life of the ancient Egyptian goatherd Ityaa: abnormal hieratic P. Michaelides 1 and 2 (P. BM EA 10907 and 10906)’, in JEA 90 (2004), p.
153-166

Top half of the contract is shown below

K. Donker van Heel, ‘A day in the life of the ancient Egyptian goatherd Ityaa: abnormal hieratic P. Michaelides 1 and 2 (P. BM EA 10907 and 10906)’, in JEA 90 (2004), p. 153-166 and

Source – K. Donker van Heel, ‘A day in the life of the ancient Egyptian goatherd Ityaa:
abnormal hieratic P. Michaelides 1 and 2 (P. BM EA 10907 and 10906)’, in JEA 90 (2004), p.
153-166

2. The following manuscript details a money loan between two goose-herders. Of interest, are the various ways in which the contract identifies the two parties and also includes the signatures of four witnesses.

Pap. Hou 12, A Persian period loan of money written in demotic Egyptian.16 Year 35, 2d month of the shemu season (Payni) under Pharaoh [Darius].

Says the [Goose] herd [of the Domain of Amon, Petash] otmef, son of Inarou, his mother Te[te]tichy, to the Gooseherd of the Domain of Amon (2) [……….., son of In]arou, his mother Obastorer:

[I have received from you] 3 [kite silver] of the treasury of Ptah, [refined, which you gave] me; it is I who will give you 6 kite silver of the treasury of Ptah, refined17, (3) [because of] them, in year 36, 1st month of the peret season (Tybi).

If I fail [to give] you [these] 6 kite silver of the treasury [of Ptah, refined], in year 36, 1st month of the peret season (Tybi) they will bear (interest) against me, 1/10th of silver to (4) each (kite of silver), from year 36, 2d month of the peret season (Mecheir) onwards, while they don’t stop as interest [in any month (and) any year] that they will be with me, while interest (will) bear as interest against me (5) again, and also this interest which is (mentioned) above, till whatever ever they would reach; and I will give then [ to you and also their interests].

This(?) money which is (mentioned) above and also their interests [will] befall on me (6) (and) on my children, and also (on) the pledges that you will want [from me, all, all, (as) houses, slave, (female) slave, cow,] donkey, and cattle, barley, emmer, (7) silver, bronze, clothing, everything as chattels, and you will take them [to you] because of them, till [you have filled them with the above money and their interests].

[I shall not be able to say], ‘I have given to you money (or) interest among them, while (8) this document is in your hand.

In writing of Onnôfri, son of Tethotefônch. Four witnesses sign on the verso of the contract.

Sources – 

S.P. Vleeming, The Gooseherds of Hou (Pap. Hou). A Dossier Relating to Various Agricultural Affairs from Provincial Egypt of the Early Fifth Century BC (Leuven, 1991)

J.G.Manning, Coinage as ‘Code’ in Ptolemaic Egypt (Stanford University, 2006). 

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About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
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