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.
This is the front side (recto) of letter I, written, probably by Heqanakht himself, in columns from right to left on a pristine sheet of papyrus in hieratic script with black ink. It is addressed to Heqanakht's family, specifically to a man called Merisu, who was a kind of steward responsible for the functioning of the household and its production. In the letter Heqanakht gives instructions to send two individuals (Nakht, possibly Merisu's deputy, and Sinebniut, a subordinate) to rent land in a place named Perhaa. He makes comments on the rental fee of land previously leased and gives directions about the rations to be provided for the man Nakht on his mission to Perhaa.
Dimensions:H. 28.4 cm (11 3/16 in.), W. 27.1 cm (10 11/16 in.)
Credit Line:Rogers Fund and Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1922
vo. 18-19 (Writing) that ka-servant Heqanakht sends to his household of Sidder Grove.
1-3 To be said by ka-servant Heqanakht to Merisu. As for every part of our land that gets wet, you are the one who cultivates it—take heed—and all my people as well as you. Look, I will count it against you. Be especially diligent in cultivating. Mind you that my barley seed is guarded and that all my property is guarded. Look, I will count it against you. Mind you about all my property.
3-9 Arrange to have Heti's son Nakht and Sinebniut go down to Perhaa to cultivate for [us] a dar. of land on lease. They should take its lease from that sheet to be woven there (with you). If, however, they will have collected the equivalent value of that emmer that is (owed me) in Perhaa, they should use it there as well. Should you have nothing more than that sheet I said to weave, they should take it valued from Sidder Grove and lease land for its value. Now, if it will be easy for you (all) to cultivate 2 dar. of land there, cultivate it. You should find land—1 dar. of land in emmer, 1 dar. of land in full barley—in the [good] land [of] Khepshyt. Don't farm the land everyone else farms.You should ask from Hau Jr. If you don't find (any) from him, you will have to go before Herunefer. He is the one who can put you on watered land of Khepshyt.
9-14 Now look, (Merisu), before I came upstream here, you calculated for me the lease of 1.3 dar. of land in full barley alone. Mind you do not short a sack of full barley from it, as (if you were) one dealing with his own full barley, because you have made the lease for it painful for me, being full barley alone as well as its seed. Now look, when dealing with full barley, 65 sacks of full barley from 1.3 dar. of land, being 5 sacks of full barley from 1 ar. of land, is not a difficult rate. Look, 1 dar. of land will net 100 sacks of full barley. Mind you do not take liberties with the oipe of full barley therein. Look, this is not the year for a man to be lax about his master, about his father, about his brother.
14-17 Now, as for everything for which Heti's son Nakht will act in Perhaa—look, I have not calculated more than one month's salary for him, consisting of a sack of full barley, calculating a second one of 0.5 of full barley for his dependents for the first day of the month. Look, if you violate this I will make it on you as a shortage. As for that which I told you, however—"Give him a sack of full barley for the month"—you should give (it) to him as 0.8 of full barley for the month. Mind you.
vo. 1-5 Now, what is this, having Sihathor come to me with old, dried-up full barley that was in Djedsut, without giving me those io sacks of full barley in new, fresh full barley? Don't you have it good, eating fresh full barley while I am outcast? Now, the barge is moored at your harbor, and you act in all kinds of bad ways. If you will have had old full barley brought to me in order to stockpile that new full barley, what can I say? How good it is. (But) if you can't calculate a single (measure) of full barley for me in new full barley, I won't ever calculate it for you.
vo. 5-9 Now, didn't I say "Snefru has grown up"? Mind you about him. Give him a salary. And greetings to Snefru as "Foremost of my body" a thousand times, a million times. Mind you, (as) I have written. Now, when my land gets wet, he should plow with you and Anubis— you take heed—and Sihathor. Mind you about him. After the plowing you should send him to me. Have him bring me 2 sacks of zwt-emmer along with whatever full barley you find, but only from the excess of your salaries until you reach Harvest. [Don't] be neglectful about anything I have written you about. Look, this is the year when a man is to act for his master.
vo. 9-12 Now, as for all the area of my basined land and all the area of my basin-land in Sinwi, I have done it in flax. Don't let anybody farm it. Moreover, as for anyone who will speak to you (about farming it), you should go [to I]p Jr.['s son] Khentekhtai about him. Now, you should do that basin-land in full barley. Don't do emmer there. But if it will come as a big inundation, you should do it in emmer. vo. 12-13 Mind you about Anubis and Snefru. You die with them as you live with them. Mind you. Look, there is nothing more (important) than either of them in that house with you. Don't be neglectful about it.
vo. 13-15 Now, get that housemaid Senen put out of my house—mind you—on whatever day Sihathor reaches you. Look, if she spends a single day in my house, take action! You are the one who lets her do bad to my wife. Look, why should I make it distressful for you? What did she do against (any of) you, you (Merisu) who hate her?
vo. 15-17 And greetings to my mother Ipi a thousand times, a million times. And greetings to Hetepet, and the whole household, and Nefret. Now, what is this, doing bad things to my wife? Have done with it. Have you been given equal rights with me? How good it would be for you to stop.
vo. 17 And have a writing brought about what is collected from those (debts) of Perhaa. Mind you, don't be neglectful.
(Allen 2002, for transliteration and discussion, see the publication)
Museum excavations; acquired by the Museum in the division of finds, 1922.
Winlock, Herbert E. 1922. "The Egyptian Expedition 1921–1922: Excavations at Thebes." In The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, vol. 17, no. 12, part 2 (December), p. 49, fig. 40.
James, Thomas G. H. 1962. The Hekanakhte papers, and other early Middle Kingdom documents, Publications of The Metropolitan Museum of Art Egyptian Expedition, 19. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1-31, pl. 1-4.
Allen, James P. 2002. Heqanakht Papyri, Publications of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Egyptian Expedition, 27. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Pls. 8, 9, 26-29.
Allen, James P. 2015. "Heqanakht Papyrus." In Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, edited by Adela Oppenheim, Dorothea Arnold, Dieter Arnold, and Kei Yamamoto. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 159, no. 94.
Yamamoto, Kei 2015. "Comprehending Life: Community, Environment, and the Supernatural." In Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, edited by Adela Oppenheim, Dorothea Arnold, Dieter Arnold, and Kei Yamamoto. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 191.
Grajetzki, Wolfram 2015. "The Pharaoh's Subjects: Court and Provinces." In Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, edited by Adela Oppenheim, Dorothea Arnold, Dieter Arnold, and Kei Yamamoto. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 120.
Arnold, Dieter and Adela Oppenheim 2015. "Excavations by The Metropolitan Museum of Art at Middle Kingdom Sites." In Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, edited by Adela Oppenheim, Dorothea Arnold, Dieter Arnold, and Kei Yamamoto. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 313.
2018. "Mr. & Mrs. Heqanachte und ein erfolgreiches Familienunternehmen: Zum Status der Beteiligten in einem familialen Netzwerk." In Pérégrinations avec Erhart Graefe: Festschrift zu seinem 75. Geburtstag, p. 249, n. 2.
Jurman, Claus 2020. Memphis in der Dritten Zwischenzeit: Eine Studie zur (Selbst-)Repräsentation von Eliten in der 21. und 22. Dynastie, 2 vols.. Hamburg, p. 1035 n5003.
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