Provisional Report on Papyri from Nahman: 1921

30 Aug. 1921

[N.B. The time at my disposal has not permitted of more than an extremely hasty examination of these papyri, and no time could be spared for deciphering in any detail the more imperfect or illegible documents. In particular the later numbers were very curiously dealt with. The measurements are only rough, as the majority of the papyri have not been damped out. The papyri are arranged and numbered accordingly to the packets in which they came.]

Including the four specimens already sent seperately by Nahman and the fragments included in Packet 5, these papyri number 141, the majority of which are well preserved. There can be no doubt that they formed the contents of a single archive that of the combined γραφειον of Tebtunis of Kerkesouchon Oros, in the Fayum, Div. of Polemon. Some documents, come indeed from the γραφειον of Talei and Theogonies, but probably these were found in the same place as the others; perhaps the Talei γραφειον was not sufficiently important to have its own archive but deposited its documents at Tebtunis. The dates of the documents range from Tiberius (one two only I have noticed of Augustus) to Claudius. Probably the whole collection was found not in the rubbish-heap but in the ruins of the γραφειον-building.

A larger number of the papyri have the larger (upper) part blank, and contain only the subscriptions to documents never writtern. In some cases the rotary scribe has written the date at the top and sometimes personal notes memoranda describing the parties to contract for subsequent incorporation in the body of the deed have been jotted down in the margins.

The explanation I would tentatively suggest is as follows: -the γραφειον retained, for purposes of record, a copy of each deed executed in it. In many, perhaps most, cases, however, the parties, having stated the nature of the transaction, were instructed by the officials, of the γραφειον to write their subscriptions at the foot of blank sheets of papyrus. The deed would be written later; but often instead of writing out in full the deed in both copies, the scribes filled in only the copy or copies to be retained by the parties, regarding the subscription alone as sufficient for the office copy. [The reverse procedure would be more intelligible; but if these were themselves εκδοϲιμα, given to the parties, it is difficult to account for their presence in one place.] This was certainly an abuse, but it is difficult to see account otherwise for the large proportion of papyri bearing subscriptions only. In some cases εκδοϲιμον is written in the blank space or at the top, implying that an authorized copy had been issued, and [once or twice] an obscure note εκκολζ occurs instead. The whole question requires more detailed investigation than I have had opportunity for.

It will be seen that the collection is of great value as illustrating the day-to-day procedure in a γραφειον of an Egyptian village. It is desirable either that the collection should be kept undivided or that, if it is divided arrangements should be made for a joint literary publication of all the papyri comprized in it. The one literary papyrus (I.2) is of course an exception to this.

The Demotic contracts have been examined by Sir Herbert Thompson, whose description (and with a rough translation of one of them) accompanies this list.


The Four Specimen Papyri

1. Subscription to a cession (παραχωρησις) of catoecic land. Tebtunis. 1 Claudius perfect, 11 1/2 " x 1 ft. 1".

2. Loan of money. Tebtunis. 12 Claudius. Perfect. 11 1/4" x 7".

3. Subscr. to sale of house property. 16 [Tiberius?]. Perfect. 11 1/2" x 8 3/4".

4. Sale of land. Theogonis. Probably Tiberius. Slightly imperf. on left. 11 1/4" x 11 1/2".

Here follows Packets I-V:

Packet I
27 pieces

Packet II
25 pieces

Packet III
26 pieces

Packet IV
27 pieces

Packet V
16 pieces


H. I. Bell
British Museum

Note: Text crossed out by the author indicated by strikethrough. Text added by the author in margins or between lines indicated by brackets. Greek text is displayed in unicode and will only display correctly in unicode-compatible browsers.

Page maintained by Monica Tsuneishi
Last modified: 03/21/2014