letter (copy?) from Ouser-Hor to the Prophet of Min with legal aspect (archive general Herianoupis)
When P. BM EA 10785 (not a layout in transversa) came to the British Museum through the estate of Robert Curzon's daughter Darea on April 7, 1917 (registered by the museum only in 1979), its provenance was unclear. It soon turned out that the papyrus belonged to a bundle of six demotic letters in the property of the British Museum, all referring to a general Herianoupis. These letters came into the possession of the British Museum in different ways:
In 1835 the British Museum acquired three papyri at the auction of Henry Salt's collection at Sotherby's:
- P. BM EA 10406 (Salt 274; TM 43930
; BC 160 Oct 2 - 159 Oct 1);
- P. BM EA 10405 (Salt 823; TM 43929
; BC 159 Jan 1);
- P. BM EA 10231 (Salt 697; TM 43898
; BC 159 Feb 27).
In 1837 the British Museum purchased one letter from the traditional London auction house Phillips, Son & Neale (together with P. BM EA 10225; Phillips 39; TM 50057
; see digital edition in the corpus of the DPDP). But originally this papyrus in all probability also came from the auction of Henry Salt's collection at Sotherby's 1835 and then passed into the auction house Phillips, Son & Neale:
- P. BM EA 10242 (Phillips 40; TM 43930
; BC 159 Jan 20).
Two letters are from the collection of Robert Curzon, 14th
Baron Zouche (1810-1873), and were given to the British Museum by Curzon's daughter Darea in 1917. Since Robert Curzon must have acquired these letters before 1849, it seems certain that these papyri were also originally acquired by Curzon at the above-mentioned auction of Sotherby's in 1835:
- P. BM EA 10786 (TM 46669
; BC 160 Oct 13);
- P. BM EA 10785 (TM 46668
; BC 159 Feb 12).The digital editions of the letters mentioned above are incorporated in the corpus of the DPDP website.
All these six letters were written in the 22nd
regnal year of Ptolemy VI Philometor (160/159 BC). From their contents (especially P. BM EA 10785), it is clear that the general Herianoupis was ordered by Ptolemy VI from Memphis to the royal court at Alexandria in this year. Four of these letters were addressed to the scribe of Herianoupis (P. BM EA 10231, P. BM EA 10242, P. BM EA 10405, and P. BM EA 10406), who continued to manage the general's affairs at Memphis, and could be definitely attributed to the archive of Herianoupis
localised in the Sacred Animal Necropolis, North Saqqara (Anubeion). The two letters P. BM EA 10785 and P. BM EA 10786 do not show an address. The recipient of P. BM EA 10785 is the prophet of Min. It is not completely certain, but the content of these last two letters makes it very plausible that they can also be allocated to the archive of Herianoupis
(cf. in detail: Muhs, in: Honi Soit Qui Mal Y PenseMuhs, B., 'Two Demotic Letters from the Archive of Herianoupis, from the Curzon Collection now in the British Museum', in: Knuf, H. / Leitz, Ch. / Recklinghausen, D. von (Hgg.), Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense. Studien zum pharaonischen, griechisch-römischen und spätantiken Ägypten zu Ehren von Heinz-Josef Thissen (Orientalia Lovniensia Analecta 194; Leuven, 1990), 397-404, Taf. 77-78.
, 397-400; Martin / Smith, in: Honi Soit Qui Mal Y PenseMartin, C. / Smith, H. S., 'Demotic Letters from the Sacred Animal Necropolis, North Saqqara, from the Curzon Collection now in the British Museum', in: Knuf, H. / Leitz, Ch. / Recklinghausen, D. von (Hgg.), Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense. Studien zum pharaonischen, griechisch-römischen und spätantiken Ägypten zu Ehren von Heinz-Josef Thissen (Orientalia Lovniensia Analecta 194; Leuven, 1990), 85-97, Taf. 29-33
The writers of the letters P. BM EA 10231, P. BM EA 10231 and P. BM EA 10406 came either directly from Memphis or from the immediate vicinity. The letters P. BM EA 10405, P. BM EA 10785 and P. BM EA 10786 show in their greeting formula the passage: "... to make blessings before Horus-Re, the Lord of Sachebu, (and) Geb, the prince of the gods...". It can therefore be almost certainly presumed that the writers of these three letters came from Sachebu.
The city of Sachebou with its cult of Re or Horus-Re, Lord of Sachebu (Leitz, LGG 5Leitz, Ch. (Hg.), Lexikon der ägyptischen Götter und Götterbezeichnungen 5 (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 114; Leuven, 2002).
, 271) is attested several times by texts and inscriptions from the Middle Kingdom to the Roman-Period. Some attestations explicitly mention that Sachebu was situated directly at the canal of the „two mullets” (ꜥꜣḏ.wj) in the 2nd
Lower Egyptian Nome Letopolites (e.g. P. Westcar - P. Berlin 3033, 9.9-11, 9.16-19; Merikare, P. Heremitage 1116A, 8.2, §81-83; P. Brooklyn 47.218.84, x+8.2; Karnak, Tempel of Opet, outer walls, north face, basement, 2nd
scene, 238 L; for further inscribed evidence: Goyon, in: Hommages SauneronGoyon, G., 'Est-ce enfin Sakhebou ?', in: Vercoutter, J. (ed.), Hommages à la mémoire de Serge Sauneron, 1927-1976 (Bibliothèque d'Ètude 81; LeCaire, 1979), 43-50.
; Thissen, Serapis 6Thissen H.-J., 'Ein Demotischer Brief aus dem Anubeion', Serapis 6 (1980), 165-170.
, 166, note to line 2). In addition to the cult of Re or Horus-Re, cults for Harpocrates and Geb, the prince of the gods, are attested in inscriptions for Sachebu. Furthermore, some of these texts reveal a close relationship between the priesthoods of both cities (e.g. Amenher, the high priest of Ptah of Memphis, also held the position of prophet of Harpocrates of Sachebu at the same time, stela KHM Wien, Äg.Slg. Inv. 153, Saqqara, BC 127, Maystre, Grand PrêtresMaystre, Ch., Les Grand Prêtres de Memphis (Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 113; Göttingen, 1992).
, 393-395; Teos, servant of Ptah and Wab-priest of the gods of Memphis was at the same time priest in the temple of Geb and guardian of Herpokrates in Sachebu; stele Leiden F 1955/7.1, TM 55509
, Memphis, BC 205-108, Meulenaere, OMRO 44Meulenaere, H. de, 'Trois Monuments de Basse Epoque', Oudheidkundige Mededelingen uit het Rijksmuseum van Oudheden te Leiden 44 (1963), 1-7.
, 5-7). Even if the considerations on the localisation of Sachebou, which were proposed by Goyon (Goyon, in: Hommages SauneronGoyon, G., 'Est-ce enfin Sakhebou ?', in: Vercoutter, J. (ed.), Hommages à la mémoire de Serge Sauneron, 1927-1976 (Bibliothèque d'Ètude 81; LeCaire, 1979), 43-50.
; Goyon, RdÉ 23Goyon, G., 'Les ports des pyramides et le grand canal de Memphis', Revue d'égyptologie 23 (1971), 137-153.
), were very controversial for a long time, this city can now be located where he suggested it should be. The new studies by Cagnard, based on archaeological surveys, as well as recent palaeogeological and geomorphological analyses of the area and the harbours of the western Nile Delta from Memphis to Alexandria, which clarified in particular the major changes in the course of the Nile, its branches and the construction of the connecting canals from the Old Kingdom to the Roman Period, now make a location of Sachebu near or under the modern city of Zat el-Kom more than probable (Cagnard, in: Géographie et archéologieCagnard, L., 'Perspectives de recherche archéologique dans la région de l'ancienne Khem/Létopolis à travers une étude préliminaire de géographie historique', in: Cassier, C. (ed.), Géographie et archéologie de la religion égyptienne. Espaces cultuels, pratiques locales (Cahiers de Égypte Nilotique et Méditerranéenne 17; Montpellier, 2017), 9-48.
, 1; Cagnard, LétopolisCagnard, L., Létopolis et la IIe province de Basse-Egypte (publication in preparation).
; Bunbury, The NileBunbury, J., The Nile and Ancient Egypt. Changing Land- and Waterscapes, from the Neolithic to the Roman Era (Cambridge, 2019).
, 63-76; Bunbury et alii, in: The NileBunbury, J. et alii, 'Development of the Memphite Floodplain Landscape and Settlement Symbiosis in the Egyptian Capital Zone', in:. Willems, H. / Dahms, J.-M. (edd.), The Nile. Natural and Cultural Landscape in Egypt (Bielefeld, 2017), 71-96.
; Butzer et alii, JAS 40Butzer, K. et alii, 'Urban geoarchaeology and environmental history at the Lost City of the Pyramids, Giza. Synthesis and review', Journal of Archaeological Science 40 (2013), 3340-3366.
; Lehner, GOP 3Lehner, M., 'Capital Zone Walk-About 2006: Spot Heights on the Third Millennium Landscape', Giza Occasional Papers 3 (2009), 97-151.
; Stanley et alii, JCR 20Stanley et alii, 'Geoarchaeological Interpretation of the Canopic, Largest of the Relict Nile Delta Distributaries, Egypt', Journal of Costal Research 20 (2004), 920-930.
, esp. 924). Zat el-Kom, the ancient Sachebu, is located about 5.5 km northwest of Letopolis (ancient Chem, today's Ausim), the ancient capital of the 2nd
Lower Egyptian Nome, and about 10 km north of Abu Roash, which was situated on the border of the 1st
to the 2nd
Lower Egyptian Nome. From the Early Dynastic period onwards, geomorphological evidence could be found of two natural Nile branches (one western and one eastern) at the western desert edge of the Delta, which had probably already formed in the Neolithic Period and could be traced from present-day Dashur to Alexandria until Islamic times. Their course changed differently during this period. The eastern branch of the Nile, which shifted to the east side of Memphis until the New Kingdom and was marked by a front wall in Roman times, today flows towards the desert edge near Helwan. The western branch of the Nile moved only slightly eastwards and has not longer changed its course since the beginning of the Middle Kingdom. Since the Old Kingdom, it connected the necropolises of Dashur, Saqqara, Abusir, Giza and Abu Roash. In the Islamic period, this western branch of the Nile silted up, but is still preserved in the depression of the modern Bahr Libeini canal. In the 2nd
Lower Egyptian Nome, the Nile branched off in antiquity at the level of today's Ausim (Letopolis) into the Canopic branch (today silted up), the Rosette branch (formerly the Bolbitinic or Saitic branch) and the Damiette branch (formerly the Bucolic or Phatni(ti)c branch, today silted up). At the level of Ausim to Zat el-Kom, geomorphologically numerous horizontally running connecting channels between the old Canopic and the Rosette branches to the present-day Bahr Libeini could be verified. Some of these channels had been artificially constructed since the Middle Kingdom and especially in the Ptolemaic-Roman period. Others had a natural origin and were expanded from the Middle Kingdom onwards. Zat el-Kom (Sachebu) is located on one of these naturally formed ancient west-east running canals at exactly the point where this canal (originally flowing from the Canopic branch) meets the present Bahar Libeini and witch today, after modern straightening, is still used as a navigable connection from the Rosette branch to the Bahr Libeini. Possibly this might also be the canal of the „two mullets” (ꜥꜣḏ.wj) named in the Egyptian texts. Thus, archaeologically and geomorphologically, not only the location of ancient Sachebu but also today's Bahar Libeini can be safely considered as fast shipping connection between Memphis and Sachebu described in Papyrus Westcar and used until Ptolemaic-Roman times (Bunbury, SQ 30Bunbury, J., 'Geomorphologcal Development of the Memphite floodplain over the past 6,000 years', Studia Quaternaria 30.2 (2013), 61–67.
The content of the letters from the Archive of general Herianoupis excludes a connection with a temple administration or a state agricultural administration. The letters address concerns that are on a legal level (release of a prisoner, P. BM EA 10242; disputes over wages for field work, P. BM EA 10405; clarification of a matter for which the sender of the letter does not wish to travel to Alexandria, P. BM EA 10785; confirmation of a maintenance payment, P. BM EA 10786; accusation of corruption, P. BM EA 10241; complaint about various workers and their accounts, P. BM EA 10406). Since general Herianoupis was written to concerning the legal clarification of these disputes, he must have held a judicial function in a Memphite local court. It cannot be clarified whether the general's judicial authority also included the area of Sachebu, or whether the cases described in the letters from Sachebu were disputes that had occurred in the legal district of Memphis and consequently also had to be judged by a Memphite court, which I would rather assume. In any case, these letters allow us to draw conclusions about the position and the great scope of the administrative powers of general Herianoupis.
The papyrus P. BM EA 10785 (BC 159 Feb 12; year 22 Ptolemy VI Philometor) is the only letter from the archive of Herianoupis that does not note a recipient on its inside. It is impossible to determine whether the address was recorded on the outside, as the papyrus is framed and therefore the reverse side is no longer visible. From the contents of the letter of Ouser-Hor, however, it is evident that the recipient of this letter is the prophet of Min, whose proper name is not mentioned (a cult of Min has been documented in Memphis since the Old Kingdom: i.a. Gauthier, personnel du MinGauthier, H., Le personnel du dieu Min (Recherches d'archéologie, de philologie et d'histoire 3, Publications de l'Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale; Le Caire, 1931)
, esp. 27, 70, 113). At the beginning of each section of the letter, the prophet of Min is honourably addressed by Ouser-Hor by his title (line 2: polite greeting; line 10: concern of the letter), whereas within these sections the 2nd
pers. sing. m. is used. This has caused confusion in some previous text editions.
The details of the actual matter that led Ouser-Hor to write to the prophet of Min are not mentioned in P. BM EA 10785. However, the content of the letter shows that it was an important legal(?) affair and leads to the conclusion that there must have been an earlier correspondence in this regard. Ouser-Hor writes to the Prophet of Min that he has received a letter from general Herianoupis, who, as already mentioned, was in Alexandria at this year. In this letter, the general summons Ouser-Hor to come to Alexandria immediately, probably to clarify this important matter with him personally. Ouser-Hor now writes to the Prophet of Min that he has a recurring great fear of the people of Alexandria and therefore he cannot travel there. Therefore, he asks the Prophet of Min to travel on his behalf to general Herianoupis at Alexandria to resolve the affair and offers him all the help he needs to do so. Whether this was the real reason why Ouser-Hor did not want himself to go to Alexandria to speak the general, I would strongly like to doubt. However, it seems probable that in the Prophet of Min and Ouser-Hor belonged to the same community of interest in this legal(?) affair.
The papyrus P. BM EA 10785 is of lower quality. It is a palimpsest whose first inscription has only been partially wiped away. The handwriting of the letter, i.e. the second inscription, is cursory, unclean and often heavily smudged. There are some passages where the writer has subsequently added forgotten words as subscriptum (lines 9 and 15) and even syntactical errors or word repetitions (lines 7 and 13) can be noticed. These irregularities and the possible absence of the address suggest that this is only a copy of the original letter that Ouser-Hor sent to the Prophet of Min. It could be that Ouser-Hor made this hastily written copy in order to provide it to the scribe of general Herianoupis as information, since the general was the responsible official for the investigation of this matter. This copy would then be part of a larger correspondence on this legal(?) affair, which was kept in the general's office and therefore was found in Herianoupis' archive.