Urine, Torn Clothes, and Ethnic Tensions in Ptolemaic Fayum

By Jennifer Cromwell On 11 May 218 BCE, a Greek man living in the Fayum was walking through the streets of the village Psya. Suddenly, from above a shower of human effluence poured down upon him, drenching him to the bone. The culprit? An Egyptian woman. But was it an accident or a malicious actContinue reading “Urine, Torn Clothes, and Ethnic Tensions in Ptolemaic Fayum”

Death by Nile: Punishing Policemen at Deir el-Medina

By Jennifer Cromwell Three papyri from the village Deir el-Medina, dating to the late New Kingdom, reveal a shocking event: the punishment of two policemen – medjay – with death by drowning in the Nile. Each letter is written from “the general of Pharaoh”, by his scribe Qenkhnum, to three people: the Scribe of the Necropolis,Continue reading “Death by Nile: Punishing Policemen at Deir el-Medina”

Settling Disputes, Casting Lots

By Jennifer Cromwell Families in late antique Egypt regularly fought over property rights. At least, that’s the impression given by the textual record from some villages, among which a common category of legal documents is those that record settlements of disputes. It is not always clear, though, if the disputes were hostile or simply thatContinue reading “Settling Disputes, Casting Lots”

“Carrying on the art”: Hieroglyph Carvers in Roman Egypt

The year 2022 marks the 200-year anniversary of the modern decipherment of hieroglyphs by Jean-François Champollion. While hieroglyphs are synonymous with ancient Egypt, they continued to be used throughout the centuries of Ptolemaic and Roman rule, although in increasingly restricted areas of use and with fewer and fewer people bearing the knowledge to produce them.Continue reading ““Carrying on the art”: Hieroglyph Carvers in Roman Egypt”

The First Recorded Strike in History

By Jenny Cromwell In year 29 of the reign of Rameses III, the workmen of the village of Deir el-Medina – state workers who were responsible for the construction of the royal tombs – went on strike. Consistent late payments and poor working conditions forced them to lay down their tools and walk out ofContinue reading “The First Recorded Strike in History”

Love in an Orchard

Jennifer Cromwell The scene: young lovers escape the heat of the early afternoon soon for the shade of an orchard. Concealed among the shadows, sheltered under the trees, they lose themselves in each other. Nobody is present to witness their tryst, except for the trees. From the New Kingdom (ca. 1,539–1,075 BCE) survives a smallContinue reading “Love in an Orchard”

A Fake Patchwork of Genuine Fragments

Jennifer Cromwell At a quick glance, a Coptic document today in the collection of the Università di Genova (Italy) looks pretty standard. There is some damage at the edges and a few small holes in the middle. But, otherwise, it looks quite well preserved. However, on closer inspection, things aren’t as they seem. While theContinue reading “A Fake Patchwork of Genuine Fragments”

Nomads, Mercenaries, and Goldmines: Desert Politics in the Ramesside Period

Julien Cooper When we think of Egypt’s wealth, our mind often wanders to geological riches. Most of this wealth originated in the Eastern Desert: the gold of Tutankhamun’s mask, the famous Egyptian eye-paints of kohl or malachite, or even the majestic purple porphyry columns that today hold up the roof in the Hagia Sophia inContinue reading “Nomads, Mercenaries, and Goldmines: Desert Politics in the Ramesside Period”

Death of a Slave Boy

Jennifer Cromwell Cymbals struck as festival performers wound their way through the village’s streets . But then tragedy struck. Leaning over the balcony to view the players below, a young slave boy Epaphroditos fell and died. Was it an accident? Was it murder?This tragic event took place in year 23 of the reign of the emperor CommodusContinue reading “Death of a Slave Boy”

Ebony and Meretseger: On a New Kingdom Herd of Cows

Jennifer Cromwell A sale document from the Fayum showed us that Roman soldiers living here named their cows, as discussed in a previous post. But, they were not the first people in Egypt to do so – Egyptians had been naming their cows for millennia beforehand! On the back of a magical text from New Kingdom Thebes,Continue reading “Ebony and Meretseger: On a New Kingdom Herd of Cows”