Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Heqanahkt Letter II

Middle Kingdom
Dynasty 12
reign of Senwosret I
ca. 1961–1917 B.C.
From Egypt, Upper Egypt, Thebes, Deir el-Bahri, Tomb of Ipy (TT 315, MMA 516B), Tomb of Meseh, MMA excavations, 1921–22
Papyrus, ink
H. 27.9 (11 in.), W. 40.8 cm (16 1/16 in.)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund and Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1922
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 107
Heqanakht was a native of Thebes (present day Luxor) during the early twelfth dynasty. As "ka-servant" of a high official he was responsible for the high official's statue cult and the administration of the land and income that had been endowed to maintain this cult. The letters and accounts written by Heqanakht and one or more scribes on sheets of papyrus were discovered by Museum excavator Herbert E. Winlock in the excavation season of 1921-1922 in the tomb of Meseh, who had a side passage and crypt in the tomb complex of the vizier Ipy, one of the rock cut tombs along the cliff overlooking the temples at Deir el-Bahri. The documents - some still folded, tied and sealed, when found - provide unique insights into the domestic and financial affairs of an average middle class family that lived almost four thousand years ago.

According to this letter, Heqankhat's wife was mistreated by a few members of his household, Heqankhat advises his addressee to correct their ways. The letter also includes a list of salaries and instructions regarding their distribution. According to James Allen, Heqanakht himself probably wrote this letter as well as Letter I (22.3.516), Account VII (22.3.522), and Papyrus Purches (L.2001.10a), while other documents were written by at least two other scribes.
(Writing) that ka-priest Heqanakht sends to his household of Sidder Grove.

A son who speaks to his mother, ka-servant Heqanakht to his mother Ipi, and to
Hetepet: how is your life, soundness, and health? In the blessing of Montu, lord of
Thebes. And to the whole household: how are you, how is your life, soundness, and health? Donft concern yourselves about me. Look, I am healthy and alive.
Look, you are that one who ate to his satisfaction when he was hungry to the white
of his eyes. Look, the whole land is dead and you have not hungered. Look, before I came upstream here, I made your salaries to perfection. Now, has the inundation been very big? Look, our salary has been made for us according to the state of the
inundation, which one and all bear. Look, I have managed to keep you alive so far.

Writing of the salary of the household:
Ipi and her maidservant 0.8
Hetepet and her maidservant 0.8
Hetifs son Nakht, with his dependents 0.8
Merisu and his dependents 0.8
Sihathor 0.8
Sinebniut 0.7
Anubis 0.4
Snefru 0.4
Sitinut 0.4
Mayfs daughter Hetepet 0.5
Nefret 0.31.2
Sitwerut 0.2
Totalling to 7.91.2
When a salary is measured for Sinebniut in his full barley, it should be at his disposal for his departure to Perhaa.
Lest any of you get angry about this, look, the whole household is just like my
children, and everything is mine to allocate. Half of life is better than death in full.
Look, one should say hunger only about real hunger. Look, theyfve started to eat
people here. Look, there are none to whom this salary is given anywhere.You should conduct yourselves with diligent heart until I have reached you. Look, I will spend Harvest here.

To be said by ka-servant Heqanakht to Merisu and to Hetifs son Nakht subordinately. You should give this salary to my people only as long as they are working. Mind you, hoe all my land tilled by tilling. Hack with your noses in the work. Look, (Merisu), if they are diligent, you will be thanked, and I will no longer have to make it distressful for any of you. Now, that salary I have written you about should start being given from the first of Khentekhtai-perti and per each succeeding first of the month. In this respect, donft be neglectful about those 14 arouras of land that are in pasturage, which Ip Jr.fs son Khentekhtai gave.about hoeing it. Be especially diligent. Look, you are all eating my salary.
Now, as for any possession of Anubisfs that you have, Merisu, give it to him. As for
what is lost, replace it for him. Donft make me write you about it another time. Look, I have written you about it twice already.
Now, if Mer-Snefru will be wanting to be in charge of those cattle, youfll have to put him in charge of them, for neither did he want to be with you plowing, going up and down, nor did he want to come here with me. Whatever else he might want, you should make him content about what he might want. But as for anyone who will reject this salary, women or men, he should come to me, here with me, and live like I live. Now, before I came here, didnft I tell you all gDonft keep a friend of Hetepet from her, whether her hairdresser or her domestich? Mind you about her. If only you would be as firm in everything as you are in this. Now, if you donft want her, (Merisu), youfll have to have Iutenhab brought to me. As this man lives for me.I speak about Ip.whoever shall make any affair of the wife on the battlefield, he is against me and I am against him. Look, that is my wife, and the way to behave to a manfs wife is known. Look, as for anyone who will act for her, the same is done for me. Furthermore, will any of you bear having his woman denounced to him? Then I would bear it. How can I be in one community with you all? Not when you wonft respect the wife for me!

Now look, I have had 24 copper deben (a deben is about one ounce) for the lease of land brought to you all by Sihathor. Now, have 20 arouras of land cultivated for us on lease in Perhaa beside Hau Jr., by copper, by cloth, by full barley, by anything, but only when you will have first collected the value of oil or of anything else there. Mind you, be especially diligent. Be watchful, and farm good watered land of Khepshyt.

(James P. Allen, 2008)
Museum excavations; acquired by the Museum in the division of finds, 1922.

Dorman, Peter F., Prudence Harper, and Holly Pittman 1987. Egypt and the Ancient Near East in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 26-27.

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