A Harvester’s Plea

Gareth Wearne What legal rights did a farm labourer have in ancient Israel? A rare glimpse is offered by an ostracon (inscribed pot-sherd), which was discovered in 1960 in the guardroom of a small Iron Age fortress, approximately 17 km south of Tel Aviv. The ostracon contains a judicial petition from a harvester to theContinue reading “A Harvester’s Plea”

A Runaway Child Bride

Jennifer Cromwell How early was too early to marry in the ancient world? If the answer is connected to being an adult, then what is an adult? And does that question differ for men and women? Is it simply a question of reaching sexual maturity (puberty), which was older in the ancient world than itContinue reading “A Runaway Child Bride”

An Angry Tax Man

Jennifer Cromwell Following the Arab conquest of Egypt in 641 CE (or Islamic conquest, it’s frequently referred to as both or either), a new tax was added to the growing list of impositions placed on the country’s population: the poll tax, payable by all non-Muslim adult males. For over two centuries after the conquest, theContinue reading “An Angry Tax Man”

“My milk being good from both breasts”

Jennifer Cromwell In a Coptic letter from the 7th century CE, a wet nurse Maria expresses her grief and condolences over the death of a young girl (P.Amh. II 188 desc.; edition by Alain Delattre et al., 2018). “My heart grieved when I heard about my daughter, that she had died.” Maria then goes on to wishContinue reading ““My milk being good from both breasts””

Death in the Desert

Jennifer Cromwell Life in the ancient world, before the development of modern medicine, was hard. Child mortality rates were high, life-expectancy was much lower than it is today, and illnesses and injuries that are easily cured now were often fatal. Life out in the oases of the western desert must have been especially difficult. ForContinue reading “Death in the Desert”

An Abandoned Wife and Unpaid Alimony

Jennifer Cromwell It’s a story that resonates throughout the ages: a man abandons his wife and their children for another woman. The story could be of a woman abandoning her husband and kids, but the story on this 7th century AD papyrus is of a man who leaves his wife. His sick wife. And theirContinue reading “An Abandoned Wife and Unpaid Alimony”