What is an Ostracon?

When dealing with ancient texts, the term ostracon refers to pottery sherds and limestone flakes that were reused to write documents. Pottery is by far the more common material used, but some areas show a particular preference for limestone. They are especially well-known from Egypt, but the practice occurs across the ancient world; see, e.g., … More What is an Ostracon?

Protecting the Tax-Payer, Protecting the Tax Man

On 17 April 731, an Egyptian priest John son of the late Victor wrote a declaration for the state treasury, represented by the Muslim official Rashid. He had paid two gold coins (holokottinosin the document) for his village’s taxes, representing the headman, Peter. However, it turned out that he – and so his village – had paid … More Protecting the Tax-Payer, Protecting the Tax Man

“I could not alleviate her mother’s grief”: On the loss of children

At birth, there was only a 66 per cent chance of celebrating your first birthday: one-third of all new-borns in the ancient world died before reaching that milestone. Once a child reached the age of five, their life-expectancy rose considerably, but the loss of at least one child was something that every parent experienced. While … More “I could not alleviate her mother’s grief”: On the loss of children

Sickness, Treatments, and Medical Books in Late Antique Egyptian Villages

“I greet my Father Athanasios. I spoke to you about the medical book. I often wanted to come south, but looking after here has not allowed me to come south. I wanted to come south, (but) the roads prevented me. Now, please send it to me, either (by) Pmoute or give it to Aaron and … More Sickness, Treatments, and Medical Books in Late Antique Egyptian Villages

One-way Tickets to the Netherworld: Mummy Labels and Inscribed Mummy Shrouds

*GUEST POST by Luigi Prada (see his bio here) On 26th April of the 24th year of reign of an unspecified Roman emperor (probably Commodus, which equals the year 184 AD), a modest Egyptian priest named Bes, son of his namesake and a lady called Tadinebhau, died in Pernebwadj, a provincial town in Middle Egypt—then a remote … More One-way Tickets to the Netherworld: Mummy Labels and Inscribed Mummy Shrouds