1. P. Turin Provv. 3581: Introduction

(KG and DS)

P. Turin Provv. 3581 consists of four fragments mounted in a double glass frame.1 Notes written in pencil on the frame indicate that the papyrus was found in a shaft (“Frammento trovato nel pozzo”) in the Valley of the Queens (“Bab-el-Harim – Tebe”). When the papyrus was framed is uncertain, but it must have arrived at Turin in the early 20th century. The database of the Turin museum mentions “Scavi Schiaparelli 1903–1906 (Valle delle Regine)” as its provenance,2 and it is likely that the papyrus came to Turin with other finds from the Valley of the Queens. According to notes by Francesco Ballerini, now held in different archives in Italy, Ernesto Schiaparelli and Ballerini himself undertook excavations here for the Turin Museum, and most of the excavated material was shipped to Turin.3 In 2014, Rob Demarée discovered the manuscript in the “Papiroteca” of the Museo Egizio and kindly brought it to our attention. The papyrus, which can be dated to the middle of the Eighteenth Dynasty, contains a hieratic letter, which is discussed here for the first time. The letter, sent by the overseer of the treasury Djehutynefer, appears to deal with preparations for a burial in the Valley of the Queens.

2. Description of P. Turin Provv. 3581


Today, the light-brown papyrus (Fig. 1) survives in four fragments, two of which are substantial while the other two are small. In the current frame, the small fragments are situated at the very top, but this placement is incorrect, as discussed below. As the letter is framed, the thickness of the material could not be measured.4

P. Turin Provv. 3581, recto and verso. Scan by Museo Egizio.

P. Turin Provv. 3581, recto and verso. Scan by Museo Egizio.

The first half of the document, fragment 1 (7.5 x 3.2 cm), is rather damaged, and bears three partially preserved lines.2

The biggest piece, fragment 2 (8.0 x 8.8 cm), forms the second half of the text, which, except for a few lacunae, is well preserved. This part contains six lines, but the beginnings of the first and last lines (4 and 9, respectively) are missing. These two fragments join directly with fragment 1, which contains the beginning of the text, introducing the sender. A rectangular lacuna on the right side of the document, starting at the beginning of the second line of fragment 1 and ending at the beginning of the second line of fragment 2, as well as the orientation and colour of the fibres at the reverse of the papyrus, further support this arrangement.

Fragment 3 measures only 1.8 x 0.7 cm, and comprises one line of some (three?) hieratic signs. Its position can be reconstructed through examination of the fibres, especially on the reverse, as well as from the size of the gap between lines 2 and 4. This fragment belongs to the left end of line 3; its signs join with the preserved parts of script in line 2.

Fragment 4 is 1.5 x 0.7 cm. It has a clear-cut edge on the left and therefore belongs to the left side of the papyrus. At the top, traces of black ink survive that must belong to a previous line. As most of this fragment is blank, it should belong between two lines of script. As only the ends of lines 1 and 2 are missing, the small fragment 4 must come from this section of the papyrus and probably contains traces of the end of line 1. Therefore the height of the papyrus can be reconstructed almost entirely (Fig. 2).

P. Turin Provv. 3581, recto: virtual reconstruction by Daniel Soliman, based on scan by Museo Egizio.

P. Turin Provv. 3581, recto: virtual reconstruction by Daniel Soliman, based on scan by Museo Egizio.

Černý pointed out that “nearly all New Kingdom letters start on the side with vertical fibres.”5 Interestingly, the Turin letter is written on the technical recto, the side which shows the horizontal fibres. The scribe of P. Turin Provv. 3581 seems to have followed the practice for literary texts, which were written on the horizontal fibres.6 In total, the text on P. Turin Provv. 3581 comprises nine lines. The text is written in black ink, with red colour used to highlight3 the numbers in subtotals and totals. This use of red ink is unusual in letters.7

The scribe re-dipped his brush in the ink at the beginning of each line, except in line 6, where he re-dipped it at the beginning of the name Ineni. The darker zone of papyrus surface in the middle section of line 7 seems to indicate purposeful erasure, possibly due to a spelling mistake.

Fragment 2 preserves the full width of the letter (8.0 cm). This is supported by several word endings along the left margin of the manuscript as well as by the fact that the title and name of the HA.tj-a Jnnj runs from the end of line 6 to the beginning of line 7.

According to Bakir, Egyptian letters occur in three different widths,8 but the Late Ramesside Letters demonstrate that any available piece of papyrus seems to have been used for brief communications; scribes, as Janssen and Demarée say, cut off from a roll any portion they needed.9

Measuring less than 11 cm in width, P. Turin Provv. 3581 may fall into Bakir’s category 1: a papyrus about 11 cm wide cut from a quarter of the width of a roll, used for short letters.10 P. Turin Provv. 3581 was 12 cm high, based on the measurements of the rearranged fragments 1 and 2. Judging from the format of other letters from the Eighteenth Dynasty,11 it is possible that the Turin letter encompasses a quarter of the width and about a quarter of the height of a roll. These measurements would result in a height of approximately 36 cm, which was the average for Eighteenth Dynasty papyrus rolls.12

The original foldingP. Turin Provv. 3581 appears to have been actually sent; the possibility that it was a model letter can be ruled out due to its material features (used condition, folding) and realistic content, as well as its find-spot.

By studying the gaps in the papyrus caused by folding and applying Krutzsch’s folding reconstruction techniques, it can be surmised that P. Turin Provv. 3581 was folded on at least two occasions. The horizontal and vertical folds (in two directions) indicate that we are dealing with a folded package.13

P. Turin Provv. 3581, recto. Scan by Museo Egizio, drawing of folds by Kathrin Gabler

P. Turin Provv. 3581, recto. Scan by Museo Egizio, drawing of folds by Kathrin Gabler

The document was presumably rolled first horizontally, along the horizontal fibres of the obverse with the text inside, either from top to bottom or from bottom to top,14 with about 1 cm per fold. Rolling from top to bottom creates at least 12 horizontal folds for the letter: nine for fragment 2 and three for fragment 1. This technique would explain most of the rather straight, primarily horizontal folds.154 Subsequently, the roll was folded once vertically, one half over the other. This big vertical fold 4 has led to several lacunae through the middle of the entire document; for this fold, and the numbering of all the folds, see Fig. 3. Such a technique is known for letters from Gurob and Amarna.16 The open ends of the doubled roll were then foldedin their turn for about 0.5 cm (which explains the vertical fold 7 along the left edge of the document, with the small lacunae) before the little package was folded over again, with the folded open ends on the inside. The technique and shape fit category FP III suggested by Krutzsch:17 a small folded package closed on all sides, measuring about 1.5 x 1.5 cm,18 which would have been rather handy for transport of the message, even concealed.19 The little package may have been tied with strings and sealed with clay/mud (possibly stamped with a scarab) or simply put into a little bag, e.g. a piece of cloth, for its carrier.20 This practice is known from a few letters that were found still intact, e.g. P. Berlin P 10463,21 and may thus be suggested for the Turin example as well.

Video 1

The original folding of the letter. Video by Kathrin Gabler, filmed and processed by Amanda Gabriel.

The secondary foldingThe horizontal folds between 9 and 11a (only visible on one of the two sides) as well as the big layered fold 8–9 cannot convincingly be explained. Rolling from bottom to top (at some point) would also explain folds 9a and 11a, but fold 8–9 is still unexplained. Judging from its layered shape and comparing it with Krutzsch’s fold categories, it must be a secondary or even tertiary fold.22 The secondary folding could have taken place at any time after the first opening of the letter. The papyrus was now apparently folded once vertically and twice horizontally, which explains the big lacuna at horizontal fold 8–9 and its layered shape, and the vertical gaps along fold 4 through the entire document. The papyrus could have been stored in this condition or put away after having been read. This folding technique indicates an individual used to a different folding practice than that of the individual who folded the letter in the first place.

Video 2

The secondary folding of the letter. Video by Kathrin Gabler, filmed and processed by Amanda Gabriel.

Folding: conclusionThe reverse of P. Turin Provv. 3581 is blank. An address was perhaps omitted here because, once the letter was folded into a tiny package, the writing surface was probably too small. Since the first line of the letter, which contains the address, is well preserved, it is likely that the message was rolled in its first phase from top to bottom (which would explain why the last line of the letter is badly preserved: it was situated at the outside of the roll). The reader would have had to open the letter completely to get to the beginning of the message; as it was a small sheet in a compact package, this could have been accomplished easily. There is an empty but damaged space at the bottom of the letter, where an address may have been added, either on the obverse or the reverse of the papyrus. Leaving free space would support the idea that the letter was folded from top to bottom, because the outside of the roll could serve as protection of the actual writing, which starts slightly later.23 The folding technique of phase 1 is the same as that used for the later Gurob and Amarna letters.24 Perhaps this is an indication that the person who folded the letter for the first time was a younger individual, while the person who did the second folding might have been elderly or used to common practice.

In a second phase, the papyrus seems to have been folded again in the fashion that was common from the Middle Kingdom until the early Eighteenth Dynasty, viz., it was folded inwards along two horizontal folds (4 and 8–9), each about one-third of the height from both the top and bottom.25 This explains why the document has survived in two big fragments, the layered fold 8–9 (= lacuna in-between lines 6 and 7) being a secondary fold. Subsequently, the papyrus was folded several times horizontally, which explain all other traces, until only the height of a single line for the addition of an address would have been left. As the letter had already reached its destination, an address was not necessary anymore. Finally, the roll was bent once in the middle, at vertical fold 4. The rectangular gap along the right edge could have been the result of tearing the first and outermost layer of the roll. This damage may have produced at any point in time after the message was written and after the package was opened for the first time. The papyrus must have been deposited after the second phase, i.e. in the old-fashioned way of folding a letter. The 5papyrus later broke at some point precisely at these folds, probably because the letter remained folded in this manner for a longer time.

3. Transcription, transliteration, translation, and commentary of P. Turin Provv. 3581

(KG and DS)


Transliteration and translation

  1. jmj-rA pr-HD 9Hwtj-nfr [Hr Dd/nD xr.t] n […]The overseer of the treasury Djehutynefer speaks to […]
  2. r[dj].n=j jn.tw m Dr.t sDm-aS n […]I have caused to be brought by the servant of / to […]
  3. […] 25 bd.t (?) […] […] rwD (?)[…] 25; emmer (?) […] […] [?]
  4. […] snw (?) 1 dmD 35 ntj aA[…] senu (?): 1; total: 35 which are here.
  5. m [r]dj.t 1 n 4A-Hw.t-Hr snw (?) n Rmny (?) 15Do not give one to Sihathor. Senu (?) for Remny (?): 15.
  6. dmD 50 aHa.w 100 Hna ntk jnj.t HA.t.j-a J-Total: 50. Grand total: 100. And then bring the mayor Ineni,
  7. nnj Hna ntk rdj.t […]=f pA wDAAnd cause that he […] the store house.
  8. Hn[a] nt[k] sAw.t pA wt ntj j[m]And guard the coffin which is there.
  9. […] snTr 1[…] incense: 1

General commentaryLine 1The reading of the end of the line is doubtful, because the papyrus is damaged along the left margin. However, it is clear that the line contains the opening of the message, which introduces the sender, the overseer of the treasury Djehutynefer. He can be identified as the official who made his career under Thutmosis III and Amenhotep II, and owned two tombs in Sheikh Abd el-Qurna, TT 80 and TT 104.

The determinative (Gardiner A1) at the end of the name of Djehutynefer is a simple dot, as in the writing of the name Sihathor in line 5, but the author of the letter also used a slightly more elaborate form of this sign consisting of two strokes (lines 2, 6 and 7).

The introductory formula of the letter is brief and straightforward, seemingly comprising the name and title of the sender, the phrase Hr Dd n, and the name and perhaps the title of the addressee, immediately followed by the message proper. Admittedly, the reading Hr Dd n is doubtful because the word Hr is usually omitted in similar salutations,26 and because the tail of (Gardiner I10) seems to have been lost. Still, the traces suggest a reading as Hr Dd n rather than as the greeting Hr nD xr.t n,27 which occurs in contemporary letters such as P. BM EA 10102, P. BM EA 10103 and P. BM EA 10107.28 As a little fold at the end of line 1 overlaps some sign traces and the rest of the line is missing, the addressee remains unknown. Considering the width of the papyrus, a space of about 2 cm must have been used for a personal name, or a short title such as “scribe” followed by a shorter personal name, e.g. Pay, Dedu, Mahu or 6Hori. The addressee is likely to have been someone who was active in Thebes, considering the provenance of the papyrus, as well as the fact that the treasury controlled by Djehutynefer was located in Thebes. Fragment 4 belongs between lines 1 and 2, and the traces of ink on this fragment may be part of the name of the addressee.

Line 2After the sDm.n=f, a passive subjunctive is used to convey the message proper, whereby the sender refers to past events. Djehutynefer explains that something had been sent, presumably to the recipient of the letter. The sender is probably not referring to a previous letter, as acknowledgments of receipts and replies as a rule are omitted in Eighteenth Dynasty letters.29 The items were transported by a servant (sDm-aS), a title which became frequent after the middle of the Eighteenth Dynasty.30 After the phrase sDm-aS n, the institution or person by whom the servant was employed may have followed as part of a genitive construction, although the n could also be a dative. According to the attestations collected by Bogoslovski, a genitival construction such as “sDm-aS n Jmn / n pr-HD / n jmj-rA NN”, is more likely,31 suggesting the man worked for the overseer of the treasury Djehutynefer. P. Turin Provv. 3581 is the earliest known papyrus and one of the earliest administrative documents, in which the term sDm-aS is attested.

Line 3The line is badly damaged and barely legible, but it probably describes commodities and items that were sent with the servant, perhaps to the recipient of the letter. The reading of the numeral 25 is clear. The following sign is perhaps (Gardiner M34) for bd.t, although its appearance is not typical.32 The reading of “emmer” is supported by the fact that during the Ramesside Period it is mostly written in black ink, whereas “spelt” would have been written in red ink.33 This type of grain was mostly used for the production of bread.34 Before the numeral 25, one sign may be (Gardiner T14), perhaps used in a word for a foreign region or commodity or even a personal name. Further down the same line, the upper part of a sign may be the numeral 20. Fragment 3 belongs to the left end of the letter in line 3. Some signs are visible, one of which may be (Gardiner T12), but the reading is unclear.

Line 4The beginning of this line is lost and the reading of the first signs is difficult. The vertical stroke after the first damaged sign could be for Gardiner Z1, but it is most likely the sign (Gardiner Z7). For the group , compare O. DeB No. 482, l. 2,35 and O. MMA Field no. 23.001.108, obv., l. 6.36 The next sign group gives the name of an object that is also mentioned in the next line, but its reading is very problematic. The first sign is probably (Gardiner X4 or X5),37 generally used as a determinative, but here apparently as a phonogram, perhaps for sn. It is followed by the sign of the vessel (Gardiner W24), which could be either the phonetic complement nw or the determinative of a word designating a container. A reading of aqw “bread” or “ration”, occasionally written ,38 is improbable because of the presence of the jar. Reading the sign as a phonetic complement, it may designate a snw-offering-loaf,39 although the habitual spelling of that word is different. Normally, snw is written with as a determinative, and with phonetic complements such as and preceding it.40 Interpreting the jar as a determinative, the group could be an otherwise unattested spelling of the word snw, designating a jar used as a container for liquid or solid goods.414nw-jars were distributed among workmen involved in the construction of the tombs of Senenmut.42 Still, none of these suggestions is entirely satisfactory. We therefore leave the word untranslated and refer to it as the snw-object. The vertical stroke after the snw-object is the numeral 1, indicating the quantity. It may be surmised that other quantities of such loaves or jars were mentioned in the part of the papyrus that is lost, to reach the total of 35 mentioned at the end of the line. The snw-objects are said to be aA “here”,43 and as the sender does not specify where this location is, the recipient was privy to this information. Since the letter was presumably sent to the Valley of the Queens, “here” must refer to another location controlled by Djehutynefer, possibly one of the storerooms of the treasury in East Thebes.44 The passage dmD 35 ntj aA is written in red ink to highlight its importance to the writer. It is not clear what the snw-objects were7 used for in the context of the letter, but they may have been given as a special type of ration to workmen, two of whom appear to be named in the next line.

Line 5A new sentence, written again in black, begins with a negated imperative, expressing a direct order to the recipient. The position of the m is remarkably low, but there are no traces of an additional sign above it. The recipient is specifically instructed not to give one unit – expressed by the numeral stroke “one” – of what must be the snw-object of line 4 to a man named Sihathor, whose role is not further specified but who was known to sender and recipient alike. Despite the popularity of the goddess Hathor during the New Kingdom, the name Sihathor is not common after the Second Intermediate Period.45 Nevertheless, the name is attested for an Eighteenth Dynasty king’s son on a relief from the shrine of Hathor in Deir el-Bahari.46

No less than 15 units of the snw-object are destined for a man whose name should perhaps be read as Remny, although this is not without difficulties. The proposed reading of (Gardiner D41) is unconventionally executed with an additional vertical tick at the top, but a similarly shaped sign is used for the word grH in Senenmut Ostraca 63 and 64.47 The sign below it must the j, which is written in the same manner as in ntj in line 8,48 and the sign after that must be (Gardiner A1), which is an abbreviated form of the sign used in lines 2, 6 and 7.49 The name Remny is rare and to our knowledge not securely attested in the New Kingdom,50 but perhaps it is related to the masculine name Rmn-j or Rmn-jA, which is not known to occur in that period.51

Line 6The next line contains a new sentence with the subtotal 50 written in red ink, the sum of the 35 units in line 4 and the 15 in line 5. The grand total is recorded as aHa.w,52 a term that also occurs throughout P. Louvre E. 3226. The reading of the numeral 100 is questionable. It is not as elongated as one would expect and the sign rather looks like (Gardiner Z7), which would mean that the actual numeral was omitted. In the following sentence, a Hna ntk sDm construction is used to introduce a further order to the recipient to bring the official Ineni.53 In letters, this is a transition formula introducing a new topic, not necessarily related to previous content.54 The writing of Ineni’s name continues in line 6; this kind of scriptio continua is typical for Egyptian letters,55 but this is its only occurrence in the present letter. Ineni is, in all likelihood, the mayor of Thebes who was active during the first half of the Eighteenth Dynasty and who owned tomb TT 81 (see Section 4). Since the sender Djehutynefer does not order to send Ineni to himself, it seems that the addressee was to bring Ineni to the location the letter refers to, probably somewhere in the Valley of the Queens where the letter was apparently delivered. Djehutynefer presumably sent the letter from an office on the East Bank to the Valley of the Queens, and therefore one may expect Ineni to have been somewhere in Western Thebes or in its vicinity at the moment the letter was written, within closer reach of the recipient (see Section 5).

Line 7The letter continues with another order, but due to the lacuna in the middle of the papyrus the sense of the instruction is lost. This lacuna is the result of secondary horizontal fold 8–9. The recipient was to ensure that something was done to a wDA-storehouse. Between ntk and rdj.t, a short horizontal stroke is visible, which appears to be a remainder of a sign that was purposefully erased. This is also evident from the faint smudges in this line. The word after the infinitive rdj.t is damaged, and could be either a noun or a verb. Since the noun wDA with the definite Late Egyptian article pA follows at the end of the line, the syntax rdj.t “to cause” + verb/subjunctive + noun/object is likely. The sign after the damaged word is (Gardiner U7), below which traces of a short horizontal stroke can be seen. The stroke seems too small to be a phonetic complement to sign U7, and is hence better explained as a remnant of the erased inscription. Sign U7 must thus be a determinative to the preceding sign group, together with what appears to be (Gardiner D36), probably for (Gardiner D40). These determinatives suggest that the lacuna contained a verb with a meaning in the semantic field of “building” or “hacking away”, both8 of which are possible because the object of the subjunctive is a storehouse. The verb aD “to hack” would make sense in this context, but the traces do not allow a reading of . We must admit the possibility that we are dealing here with a hapax legomenon. The third person singular likely refers to Ineni, who seems to have been responsible for activities involving the storehouse. Once more, the sender and the recipient are well acquainted with the subject matter of the letter, and neither location nor the nature of the wDA-storehouse56 are thus specified. The word wDA “storehouse” may refer to (large) storehouses attached to (mortuary) temples, institutions and treasuries,57 but may also designate smaller structures, which could be owned by individuals such as royal necropolis workmen of the Ramesside period (see Section 5).58 It may be assumed that the storehouse referred to in the letter was a temporary structure that needed to be demolished. The storehouse was apparently controlled by the overseer of the treasury Djehutynefer and the mayor Ineni, and since the latter was apparently brought to the Valley of the Queens, this was presumably also the location of the storehouse.59

Line 8The sender continues with a further order to the recipient, but damage to the papyrus hampers the reading of this line. The sign after ntk appears to be a strangely executed (Gardiner A47) for sAw, for which there are no direct parallels. The scribe may initially have omitted the determinative, because (Gardiner A24) runs through (Gardiner X1). He did, however, write a more elaborate (Gardiner Z4), composed of two individual strokes, in wt and ntj, as opposed to the more cursive forms used in lines 8 and 9. The recipient is told to guard the wt-coffin, a type of anthropoid wooden coffin that was often decorated.60 The definite article pA is used, indicating that a specific coffin was intended. The coffin is said to be “there” (jm), probably referring to the storehouse mentioned in the previous line, which as we have seen was presumably situated in the Valley of the Queens. The wt-coffin was possibly kept there while waiting for it to be decorated, or used for an imminent burial. Such practices are indeed recorded for the Ramesside period. In O. Cairo CG 25260, a document from the reign of Ramesses IV, a wt-coffin is taken out of an a.t-hut belonging to a necropolis workman, which was possibly located in the Valley of the Kings.61 One of the tomb robbery papyri attests to the fact that during the Twentieth Dynasty cultic objects meant for the royal burial, such as a portable naos, were kept in wDA-storehouses,62 and in O. Cairo CG 25504 a scribe of the sculptor workshop comes up to the Valley of the Kings to work for two days on the wooden wt-coffin of Merenptah to make it ready for the king’s burial.63 If our interpretation of the previous line is correct, and the storehouse was indeed to be demolished, the wt-coffin would no longer be protected, which explains why it had to be guarded.

Line 9The beginning of the line is lost. The sender seems to be requesting specific goods, including incense, presumably for the burial for which Djehutynefer appears to be preparing. The letter then ends abruptly, omitting the closing formula found in most Eighteenth Dynasty letters.64

Commentary about the use of Late Egyptian elements (KG)The letter is written in the style of other documents dating to the middle of the Eighteenth Dynasty. The writer used mostly Middle Egyptian grammar, but the text already shows some Late Egyptian features. The introductory formula consisting of the pseudo-verbal construction Hr Dd/nD xr.t already appears in messages from the Middle Kingdom.65 The sDm.n=f-form in line 2 indicates that the servant has already been sent, as the bringer of certain goods or even as the carrier of the letter. It is a typical Middle Egyptian feature, where the verbal form is usually introduced by a particle. A short particle, e.g. jw, could indeed have been written in the same line. In any case, a sDm.n=f-form may appear without a particle at the beginning of speeches or introductions.66 For the Turin letter, it is likely that the actual content of the message started from this point and therefore no particle was needed. The sDm.n=f-form was still used in the Eighteenth Dynasty to indicate the perfect tense, and occasionally still appears in Late Egyptian.679The negated imperative m in line 5 seems to be combined with an infinitive (rdj.t) instead of the usual form of the second person, sometimes indicated by a w-ending.68 In line 6, 7 and 8, the infinitives (jnj.t, rdj.t, sAw.t) should be understood as imperatives expressing three new orders: to bring the mayor Ineni, to cause something to happen, and to guard a coffin.69

The writer used a few Late Egyptian elements in his letter. First, there is the definite article pA for wDA in line 7 and wt in line 8. The seemingly feminine .t-ending in the masculine expression wDA does not indicate the word’s gender (anymore), because by now this distinctive function has already been taken over by the article. Both the use of articles and the writing of redundant .t-endings are, of course, common features in texts of the Ramesside period. In line 8, the relative converter ntj follows after the determined (pA) antecedent wt, which is also typical for Late Egyptian constructions.70 At the same time, the writer of the letter employs ntj after the numeral in line 8, according to Middle Egyptian practice.71 This amalgamation of Middle Egyptian grammar with Late Egyptian elements is consistent with the mid-Eighteenth Dynasty date proposed here on the basis of the letter’s other features, viz., its content, palaeography (see below), prosopographical context (see Section 4) and archaeological context (see Section 5).

Commentary on palaeography (DS) Some of the signs and sign groups in P. Turin Provv. 3581 are executed in similar ways in other Eighteenth Dynasty letters (see Table 1).72 However, as remarked above, the scribe of P. Turin Provv. 3581 used more simplified signs and ligatures than, for example, the almost contemporary scribe of the Ahmose letters and P. BM EA 10102, 10103, 10104, and 10107, and to some extent also the scribes of P. MMA 27.3.560, P. Berlin P 10463 and O. Glasgow D.1925.87+O. Berlin P. 10616 (see Table 2).73 These other scribes employed more elaborate variants of particular hieratic signs, and sign groups are less often ligatured. Better parallels for the hand of P. Turin Provv. 3581 are found in the administrative accounts of P. Louvre E. 3226, from the time of Thutmosis III,74 and in letter P. Berlin P 10463, dated to the reign of Amenhotep II.75 Presumably, the latter document was, like P. Turin Provv. 3581, written by, or on behalf of, a high Theban official. The style of the hieratic of these documents is similar (see Table 3). They are written in a very legible hand but, in contrast to the letters in Table 2, they contain ligatures for groups such as jmj-rA, nfr and rdj.t. P. Louvre E. 3226 and P. Berlin P 10463 provide similar examples of the pA-bird with the two wings detached from10-11 the body, and of the jnj-sign in which the right leg is longer than the left leg. The hand of the writer of the letter of Djehutynefer also resembles the hands found on documentary ostraca relative to construction projects at Deir el-Bahari during the reigns of Hatshepsut and Thutmosis III (see Table 4).76 These documents are written in a clear business hand as well, with ligatures for groups such as nfr and rdj.t, and the forms for the determinative , the numeral 50 and the pA-bird are similar to those in P. Turin Provv. 3581.

Similar signs and sign groups in P. Turin Provv. 3581, P. BM EA 10102, P. MMA 27.3.560 and O. Glasgow D. 1925.87

Table 1


Similar signs and sign groups in P. Turin Provv. 3581, P. BM EA 10102, P. MMA 27.3.560 and O. Glasgow D. 1925.87

Differences between signs and sign groups in P. Turin Provv. 3581, P. BM EA 10102, P. BM EA 10104, P. MMA 27.3.560, P. Berlin P 10463 and O. Glasgow D. 1925.87

Table 2


Differences between signs and sign groups in P. Turin Provv. 3581, P. BM EA 10102, P. BM EA 10104, P. MMA 27.3.560, P. Berlin P 10463 and O. Glasgow D. 1925.87

Similar signs and sign groups in P. Turin Provv. 3581, P.Louvre E. 3226 and P. Berlin P 10463.

Table 3


Similar signs and sign groups in P. Turin Provv. 3581, P.Louvre E. 3226 and P. Berlin P 10463.

Similar signs and sign groups in P. Turin Provv. 3581 and documentary texts on ostraca from Deir el-Bahari

Table 4


Similar signs and sign groups in P. Turin Provv. 3581 and documentary texts on ostraca from Deir el-Bahari

4. The social context of P. Turin Provv. 3581 and the Theban necropoleis of the Eighteenth Dynasty


The sender of the letter was the overseer of the treasury Djehutynefer, whose career must have spanned the reigns of Thutmosis III and Amenhotep II, according to the inscriptions in his two tombs at Sheikh Abd el-Qurna, TT 80 and 104.78 Apart from these tomb inscriptions, few other objects have been ascribed to him, perhaps in part because his name was common during the New Kingdom. Other attestations of his person may have been overlooked because he was called Djehutymose during his earlier life.79 His most important office, overseer of the treasury, indicates that Djehutynefer was a high-ranking official in Thebes who answered directly to the vizier. His letter demonstrates that he was in charge of a servant who was tasked with the delivery of the goods that were sent to the recipient of the letter.

The mention in the letter of a wt-coffin and of incense suggests that the subject is the preparation of a burial in the Valley of the Queens, where the papyrus was reportedly discovered. The events described in the message therefore seem to involve the royal necropolis workmen who were housed at Deir el-Medina. Indeed, royal necropolis workmen of the Eighteenth Dynasty are attested in the Valley of the Queens,80 and a few Eighteenth Dynasty individuals are known from Deir el-Medina.81 The men Sihathor and Remny, mentioned in relation to the distribution of what appear to be rations, were probably two of these necropolis workmen, although to our knowledge no workmen by these names are attested at Deir el-Medina.82 Such an identification is nevertheless supported by the fact that the men were involved in the preparation of a burial coordinated by two prominent Theban officials. The men received wages from the overseer of the treasury Djehutynefer, and thus worked under his authority. Whether this means that all royal necropolis workmen of the Eighteenth Dynasty were supplied by one or more Theban officials is unclear, because almost nothing is known about the external organisation of the crew during this period. It would, however, not contradict our current understanding of the situation, namely, that it was a Theban high official (during12 the beginning of the Eighteenth Dynasty, this was the mayor of Thebes Ineni) and not the vizier who was responsible for tomb construction in the royal valleys of Thebes.

The mayor Ineni was evidently needed for the burial in question, since the overseer of the treasury Djehutynefer requested his presence. Ineni was responsible for numerous construction projects and was connected to the treasury of the temple of Amun.83 Like Djehutynefer, Ineni played an important role in the central administration of the first half of the Eighteenth Dynasty. On the basis of the autobiographical texts from his tomb TT 81, Ineni is generally thought to have been active under Amenhotep I and Thutmosis I, and to have retired thereafter.84 Still, it is well-known that Ineni witnessed the death of king Thutmosis II and the accession of Hatshepsut.85 Djehutynefer’s letter must therefore have been written around this time or slightly later, because he is not known to have been overseer of the treasury before the reign of Hatshepsut. The letter suggests that Ineni was still active in Western Thebes, working in close collaboration with Djehutynefer, although we do not know in exactly what capacity. During the reign of Thutmosis I, Ineni must have attained the office of overseer of all the king’s construction work, which made him responsible for the completion of the royal tomb.86 It is debated where the original sepulchre of Thutmosis I was located,87 but it may well have been in the Valley of the Queens. In this cemetery, there are several tombs that can be dated to the beginning of the Eighteenth Dynasty,88 as opposed to the Valley of the Kings, where there is virtually no indisputable evidence for activity during the same period. Arguably, work on these tombs in the Valley of the Queens was carried out under the authority of the overseer of all the king’s construction work, Ineni. He may have had a temporary wDA-storehouse erected on site at that time, which would clarify why Djehutynefer needed Ineni to have it taken down.

The collaboration between Djehutynefer and Ineni is remindful of that between the better attested officials Hapuseneb and Djehuty, who were mostly active under Hatshepsut and Thutmosis III. Hapuseneb was vizier and mayor of Thebes, and also bore the title of overseer of all of the king’s construction work. In the latter capacity, he must have been tasked with building the king’s tomb,89 and conceivably other tombs in the Valley of the Kings or the Valley of the Queens as well. As pointed out by Bryan, Hapuseneb contributed to some construction projects that Djehuty, overseer of the treasury and first high priest of Amun, was also connected to: “Hapuseneb should be understood to have been principally responsible for the construction, while Djehuty was responsible for the valuable materials used.”90 A similar connection may have existed between the mayor Ineni, who had strong ties to the temple of Amun, and Djehutynefer, who controlled the treasury.91

The connection between Djehutynefer and Ineni is also reflected in the location of their tombs. Djehutynefer had two tombs constructed for himself at Sheikh Abd el-Qurna. In TT 104 he exclusively bears the title of royal scribe, while in TT 80 his higher-ranking offices are mentioned. It is therefore assumed that Djehutynefer had advanced in his career at the time when the latter tomb was decorated. He may have wanted to associate himself with a higher echelon of Theban dignitaries, and hence had his second tomb constructed directly adjacent to TT 81, which belonged indeed to the mayor Ineni.92 No sons or daughters are attested for Ineni and his wife Iahhotep,93 so one may speculate that a kind of father-son relationship existed between Ineni and the younger Djehutynefer. The latter is perhaps depicted in Ineni’s tomb TT 81 under the name of Djehutymose, the nickname recorded for him in TT 80. A scribe called Djehutymose is featured in scenes 16 and 21 in TT 81 with the caption sn “brother”;94 the term does not necessarily imply blood relation, and may thus very well refer to Djehutymose’s closeness to Ineni.95 Both scenes also mention a man called Paiynuna, once depicted as a wab-priest.96 Perhaps he is the same man as Paiyn, who may have been the father of Djehutynefer, in whose honour the latter apparently ordered a statue.97

It is unclear for whose burial Djehutynefer was preparing. The nature of the Valley of the Queens during the Eighteenth Dynasty is unfortunately still very poorly understood, because many of the tombs were undecorated, several others were plundered, and the site as a whole is still not yet sufficiently13 published. Apart from the burials of members of the royal family, tombs of the first half of the Eighteenth Dynasty identified at the cemetery belong to private individuals (no tombs dug for animals having been discovered there so far).98 Djehutynefer’s letter does not, however, allow us to specify what kind of burial is being referred to. Since Djehutynefer and Ineni were themselves important dignitaries of their time, it is possible that the burial was intended for them or one of their close family members. Both are of course known to have had tombs erected for them, but there is no possibility of knowing who was actually interred at Sheikh Abd el-Qurna, and at this location no bodies or coffins have been identified that can unequivocally be linked to these men or their family members.99 Ineni’s family, in particular, could have been a candidate for burial in a cemetery for members of the royal family, since Ineni’s mother Sit-Djehuty bore the title of Xkr.t-nswt.100 During the Eighteenth Dynasty, this epithet was connected to the upbringing of royal youths, and in several cases it appears to have granted its holders a burial close to the tomb of the king.101 Still, Ineni was probably interred in TT 81, as four canopic jars inscribed for him and his wife were recovered in the neighbouring tomb TT 85.102

As will be discussed in Section 5 below, Djehutynefer’s letter may have been discovered in the vicinity of the tomb of the chief of stables Nebiry (QV 30), and there is hence a chance that this was the burial referred to in the message. The undecorated tomb QV 30 was attributed to this official on the basis of the inscriptions on four limestone canopic jars. These jars, as well as the pottery sherds from the tomb, were dated to the time of Thutmosis III.103 Ballerini’s notes on the excavation of QV 30 mention the finding of a beard that belonged to a coffin,104 which could be the wt-coffin referred to in the letter; since the mummified remains of a man were discovered in the tomb, we may expect Nebiry to have been interred in the burial chamber, presumably in a coffin. Nebiry’s burial in the Valley of the Queens should probably be understood in the light of his close connection to the royal court, and perhaps his involvement in the upbringing of the crown prince. It could well be that Nebiry, like the three other attested Eighteenth Dynasty chiefs of stables,105 was raised in the institution of the kAp. Additionally, Nebiry may be identified as the like-named deputy of Min, mayor of This. The latter official was also the tutor of crown prince Amenhotep, son of Thutmosis III, as well as of Nebiry’s son, also called Amenhotep.106 If these two men called Nebiry are indeed one and the same individual, then he must have known Thutmosis III and Amenhotep II personally. This would also mean that the burial mentioned in the letter cannot be Nebiry’s, as the letter must have been written before his demise. It is, however, theoretically possible that a family member of Nebiry’s was buried in the tomb prepared for him in the Valley of the Queens.

Regardless of the burial for which Djehutynefer was preparing, the letter indicates that he knew the workmen involved in the project by name. The fact that he specifically states that Sihathor was not to be given any rations suggests that Sihathor may have been reprimanded for something. Djehutynefer must thus have been well informed about the developments at the worksite to which the letter refers, which implies that there was habitual communication between the overseer of the treasury and the leader of the work at the construction site. If we are correct in situating the events of the letter in the Valley of the Queens, this construction leader may well have been the foreman of the crew of royal necropolis workmen residing at the settlement of Deir el-Medina.107 The letter may thus be illustrative of administrative practices in the royal necropoleis of Thebes in the Eighteenth Dynasty. During this period, hardly any hieratic ostraca were produced to record work at these cemeteries,108 which stands in stark contrast to the contemporary construction sites at Deir el-Bahari and Sheikh Abd el-Qurna. It is questionable if scribes were permanently present with the royal necropolis workmen, as their presence in the community of workmen has not left many clear traces in the Eighteenth Dynasty.109 Still, it may be assumed that scribes were involved in administrative processes, and perhaps P. Turin Provv. 3581 is an indication of exactly that. Indeed, two Eighteenth Dynasty individuals are attested at Deir el-Medina who bear the title of scribe of the “Great Place”, an expression which during the Eighteenth Dynasty referred to the royal necropolis of Thebes:110 they are the scribes Amenemope and Pay, documented,14 respectively, by a stela111 and a scribal palette.112 Djehutynefer may have addressed his letter to one of these scribes. Amenemope’s stela is dedicated to Thutmosis III, during whose reign he must have been active. This date would approximate the date of the letter; however, the phrase “scribe Pay” would fit better in the limited space at the end of line 1 (see Section 2). These scribes were to some degree attached to the crew of royal necropolis workmen, and must have occasionally monitored the progress of the construction of the various tombs in the Theban valleys. This area apparently included the Valley of the Queens, but possibly also the Valley of the Kings and the Wadi Sikket Taqa el-Saida, where the tomb of the foreign wives of Thutmosis III was constructed. Indeed, the mobility of the addressee of the letter is highlighted by the fact that he was to fetch the mayor Ineni from elsewhere in Western Thebes (see below).

5. Discussion of letter P. Turin Provv. 3581 and its possible find-spot


In addition to P. Turin Provv. 3581, the Museo Egizio holds 50 previously known letters, 30 of which date to the end of the Twentieth Dynasty, as well as several fragments of so far unknown Ramesside texts. Details from addressees and senders are potent pieces of information within letters: they provide knowledge about, or hints as to, the origin and destination of a dispatch, as well as its delivery route. In order to reconstruct systems and routes of delivery, as well as identify centres of communication and meeting points, an approach combining archaeological, chronological (Sections 2 and 3), philological (Section 3), prosopographical (Section 4) and topographical information is called for.113 The present section deals with the archaeological and topographical background of P. Turin Provv. 3581.

5.1. Origin and delivery of P. Turin Provv. 3581

The sender, the overseer of the treasury Djehutynefer, presumably worked in the religious and administrative centre of the mid-Eighteenth Dynasty: the temple of Karnak at Thebes. As the message was written on papyrus, Karnak as a place of departure is convincing: over a shorter distance, an oral message or ostracon would have sufficed. Such dispatches, mostly on potsherds, were usually sent within a limited area, especially in the microcosms of Deir el-Medina and the Western Theban Necropolis. As the Turin letter probably had to be carried from the East to the West Bank, a small piece of papyrus served well as a medium for writing and delivery. As we have seen above (Section 2), the handwriting of P. Turin Provv. 3581 cannot be identified with that of any other known letters from the same period. The author could have been Djehutynefer himself, who was most likely literate (as can be inferred from his title), or one of his secretaries/scribes, whose name we will never know.114 The small package was easy to carry, possibly by one or a succession of officials (a scribe, administrator, guardian, policeman, inspector, etc.), any of whom may be identical with the individual referred to in line 2 as the “servant”, perhaps of the overseer of the treasury or of an institution.115 Whatever the exact circumstances, there presumably was a regular and organised exchange between East and West Thebes.116 Due to the various building activities going on in Deir el-Bahari at the time of Hatshepsut und Thutmosis III, a systematic exchange of information, goods and orders must have been in place between the residential institutions in Thebes and the ongoing projects in the West.117 It is also possible that the message in question was passed from hand to hand before arriving at destination on the West Bank; a messenger may have only brought it to the riverbank to be ferried across to Western Thebes, where it might even have been passed on to a third party working or living in the area of the Necropolis.

5.2. Destination of P. Turin Provv. 3581

Letters from or found in necropoleis are well known.118 Only few of these, however, concern tomb construction or burial preparations and indicate a clear reason why they were sent to or were found in a necropolis. Some letters come from the Djoser complex in Saqqara, which served as an administrative centre for building projects in the Old Kingdom,119 others were part of the burial assemblage, while others still are completely unrelated to their find-spot, e.g. the Heqanakht papyri.120 Under this15 respect, P. Turin Provv. 3581 is unusual, because it comes from the Valley of the Queens and deals with the administration of a necropolis and the construction or outfitting of a burial. It is possible that there was a spot (a temporary office or meeting point) for the tomb administration in the Valley of the Queens in the mid- Eighteenth Dynasty, as was probably the case in Deir el-Bahari. Such proposed structures are rather difficult to identify, especially in the period when our letter was sent to Western Thebes, because of their (temporary) nature and the use of and changes in the necropolis over the decades. To determine a possible destination for P. Turin Provv. 3581 beyond its reported find-spot in a shaft in the Valley of the Queens, textual sources dating to later periods will be discussed here for comparison, as well as for more information about the archaeology of the area. The addressee of the letter, most likely a scribe (see Sections 3 and 4), was presumably regularly present at this location.

5.2.1. Comparison of the content of P. Turin Provv. 3581 with information from the Ramesside period: storage facilities in the Valley of the Queens

Textual information about the topography of the Valley of the Queens in the New Kingdom originates almost exclusively from the Ramesside period. To get an idea about possible features such as storage facilities in the cemetery, I will give an overview of structures from the Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasty before looking at the situation in the Eighteenth Dynasty in the light of the more substantial evidence from later periods.

The Deir el-Medina Database contains about 60 documents related to storehouses (wDA or a.t), most of which come from the Valley of the Kings and inform us about such (in most cases, probably temporary) installations in this cemetery. Within these structures, in addition to materials and tools, burial equipment such as coffins may also have been stored briefly (see Section 2, comment to lines 7 and 8).121 Storehouses also stood in the vicinity of Deir el-Medina (see O. Ashmolean Museum 133 or 1945.39), which were maintained by the workmen of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasty and their families. Workmen were not the only ones to own such huts, women did, too. O. DeM 112 and O. DeM 964 are of particular interest in this regard. Dating probably to the reign of Ramesses III, they mention a lady Tasaket who received two a.t-huts in the Valley of the Queens.122 These huts could be interpreted as “section, department, office or workplace” in the “context of high-ranking authorities” (e.g. scribes), but also of individuals (e.g. workmen).123 The situation in the Valley of the Queens seems to have been similar to that in the Valley of the Kings.

The most detailed information about storage facilities in the Valley of the Queens is provided by one of the tomb robbery papyri from the end of the Ramesside period. A passage in the famous Papyrus Abbott (P. BM EA 10221)124 describes an investigation of the coppersmith Pakharu son of Kharu, a rmT-smd.t of the temple of Medinet Habu. The man was accused of entering the tomb of Isis (QV 51), queen and wife of Ramesses III. Pakharu was taken into the Valley of the Queens for an on-site examination, so that he could indicate which tomb he had stolen objects from. The coppersmith apparently identified a tomb of the royal children of Ramesses III,125 which was open and empty (“jw bwpwj qrs jm=f jw=f xAa wn”). At this place stood the a.t-hut of the rmT-js.t Jmn-m-jn.t sA 1wj n pA xr.126

On the basis of the mention of the “royal children of Ramesses III (?)”, one of the following tombs could be meant: QV 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 53, 54 or 55 (cf. Fig. 4).127 Possible candidates are the tombs of princes who later became kings, because their burial sites in the Valley of the Queens became unnecessary, since they would be interred in the Valley of the Kings. Therefore QV 43 planned for Setherkhepeshef (later Ramesses VIII), QV 53 for Ramesses Meryatum (later Ramesses IV) or QV 55 for Amunherkhepeshef I (who died at a young age) might be the tomb the coppersmith’s testimony refers to. These tombs were probably never used and could have been open as well as empty. Furthermore, QV 53 and 55 lay in the vicinity of QV 51, the tomb of Isis.128 One of the two tombs might have served as a storage area for the workmen and their material, maybe even as an administrative outpost in the Ramesside period, partly because they stood at one of the highest points in the wadi, from which the valley could be viewed.

Map of the Valley of the Queens, after https://www.getty.edu/conservation/publications_resources/pdf_publications/pdf/qv_vol2.pdf, 13.

There would hence have been a maximum of 8016 years between the construction of the hut above the tomb of the royal children and the inspection recorded on the tomb robbery papyrus, depending on whether we identify Jmn-m-jn.t sA 1wj as Amenemone (ii) or (iii). A (long) use phase of such a storage facility makes sense for practical and logistical considerations, since the tombs in the surroundings were constructed in the same period. Earlier storage installations could also have been employed next to the tombs under construction.129

Since the Turin letter was discovered in the Valley of the Queens, the (temporary) storehouse that is mentioned in P. Turin Provv. 3581 at line 7, and which was used for funerary equipment, may have stood in an area of tombs dating to the middle of the Eighteenth Dynasty, probably within the early reign of Thutmosis III. Apparently this storage facility was not in use anymore, and therefore the mayor Ineni was to organise its removal. The neighbourhood of the storehouse might have served as a meeting point where the message could have been handed over to the addressee, who must have been active in the necropolis, possibly as a scribe. This spot was presumably located close to the Eighteenth Dynasty burials, in a strategic position, by which letter carriers may have passed (on an occasional or regular basis). If the addressee was indeed a scribe or administrator, he would have had access to the various parts of the necropolis.

5.2.2. The archaeological context of P. Turin Provv. 3581 and possible meeting points to exchange letters

According to the museum’s notes, P. Turin Provv. 3581 originates from a shaft in the Valley of the Queens. The main valley contains about 60 tombs17 that can be dated to the Eighteenth Dynasty on the basis of finds and architecture.130 These tombs usually consist only of a simple shaft with a burial chamber, sometimes with one or two side chambers. All graves from this period are completely undecorated and have no superstructure. They are located on the northern and southern flanks of the main wadi (cf. Fig. 4). Many of them were reused for different purposes in later times.131 Between 1903 and 1905, the Italian mission directed by Schiaparelli worked at different sites throughout the valley.132 According to the archival material, the Italian mission started working in different spots at the same time in 1903, probably at the highest points of the main wadi.133 A sequence of work from top to bottom of the wadi would explain the early discovery of some Ramesside tombs, e.g. QV 43 and QV 44 (cf. Fig. 4): the tombs lie at the end of the main wadi and probably were not buried under much debris. Conversely, the Eighteenth Dynasty tombs were probably concealed by a greater volume of debris, because they are located closer to the bottom of the wadi and the lower flanks.

One would expect that the discovery of the letter, even as a small folded package, would have been recorded by the early twentieth century excavators, as it would have been a rare find. However, no mention of the papyrus has been found so far in the excavation records. The notes left by Schiaparelli and Ballerini do not always provide enough information about which finds originated from which tomb.134 In their time, the QV-numbering system had not yet been implemented, which makes it challenging to correlate the tombs with the descriptions in their notebooks.135 Furthermore, provisional (Provv.) numbers were assigned to objects in the Museo Egizio whose (original) inventory number was lost. Therefore, is also possible that Schiaparelli’s workmen excavated in other areas from which we do not (or at least no longer) possess any written data. If the letter comes from such an area, a reconstruction of the find-spot is not possible anymore.

According to Leblanc, Schiaparelli’s team worked between 1903 and 1905 in at least 13 tombs in the Valley of the Queens, of which seven are generically dated to the Eighteenth Dynasty; according to the ongoing study of the archival material by Del Vesco, Schiaparelli’s team excavated at least 55 tombs in the main and side valleys of which 39 date to the Eighteenth Dynasty. But only five or six owners of these tombs have been identified so far: QV 30 (ascribed to the chief of stables Nebiry, reign of Thutmosis III), QV 46 (ascribed to the vizier Imhotep, reign of Thutmosis I), QV 76 (ascribed to the princess Merytra, Eighteenth Dynasty), QV 87 (anonymous, Eighteenth Dynasty), QV 88 (ascribed to the prince Ahmes, early Eighteenth Dynasty), QV 92 (anonymous, Eighteenth Dynasty), QV 93 (anonymous, Eighteenth Dynasty) and QV 97 (anonymous, Eighteenth Dynasty) and maybe QV 8 (ascribed to the prince Hori, an anonymous princess and Amenwesekhet, Eighteenth Dynasty) and QV 82 (ascribed to the prince Minemhat Amenhotep, Eighteenth Dynasty) (cf. Fig. 4).136

However, some of these attributions are questionable: QV 87, an anonymous, unfinished shaft tomb from the Eighteenth Dynasty mentioned by Leblanc, is unlikely to have been the provenance of the letter, as there is a break into it from the Ramesside tomb QV 34. If Schiaparelli’s workmen had explored QV 87, they would also have discovered QV 34. Yet QV 34 was found by the French team in the 1990s, and still contained many objects. It is therefore unlikely that the Italian mission entered either QV 87 or QV 34, and so these tombs can be ruled out as the possible find-spot of P. Turin Provv. 3581.137 Judging from the current records and information, only QV 30 can be securely dated to the period of Thutmosis III, and its date is in better agreement with that of the letter. However, as discussed in Section 4, Nebiry was still active during the reign of Amenhotep II; thus, P. Turin Provv. 3581 presumably comes from another shaft.

QV 92, 93 and 97 are located in the Valley of the Rope.138 Except for a fragment of an alabaster vase discovered in QV 97, the three tombs have yielded no other material evidence.139 QV 89, 90 or 91, all situated in the Valley of the Three Pits, can be excluded as the possible find-spot of P. Turin Provv. 3581, because the Italian Mission worked only in the Valley of the Rope.140 In any case, the tombs in the side valleys lay in the proximity of several ancient watch posts.141 Such an observation post would provide an ideal destination for messengers, as guards should18 have been stationed there, who could receive letters and forward them to their addressees (see Sections 5.1 and 5.2). Still, the available data do not allow an identification of the owners of the Eighteenth Dynasty tombs, and the origin of P. Turin Provv. 3581 from one of the shafts discussed here must remain hypothetical. The current state of research does not allow further delimitation of the find-spot of our letter.

6. Summary – P. Turin Provv. 3581 in context

(KG and DS)

Around the middle of the Eighteenth Dynasty, probably in the early reign of Thutmosis III, the overseer of the treasury Djehutynefer wrote letter P. Turin Provv. 3581 in East Thebes, possibly in Karnak. The message was transported to the West Bank and delivered to the recipient, most probably in the Valley of the Queens. The messenger may have been one of the servants or administrators of Djehutynefer, who carried the document to Western Thebes, perhaps together with the goods recorded in the letter. These goods were destined for men who were presumably involved in preparations for a burial in the Valley of the Queens. The letter may have been delivered at a meeting or observation post, where it was handed over to the addressee. This recipient evidently stood in close contact with the overseer of the treasury Djehutynefer and the mayor Ineni.

In the letter, Djehutynefer instructs the addressee about the distribution of specific commodities to the men Sihathor and Remny, and orders the recipient to bring the mayor Ineni to demolish a storehouse that probably stood in the Valley of the Queens, and to guard a coffin which was stored therein. It stands to reason that the careers of Djehutynefer and Ineni overlapped during the early reign of Thutmosis III, when the letter must have been written. At this time, the two officials controlled important institutions such as the storerooms of the temple of Amun at Thebes, and their collaboration in the Valley of the Queens does not come as a surprise. The letter thus demonstrates that Ineni may have been in office for a longer time than previously assumed.

As the letter seems to concern individuals and events in the Valley of the Queens, the addressee may have been a scribe who monitored tomb construction in this cemetery. After reading the message, he possibly refolded the letter and disposed of it in the debris of a nearby shaft, which may have belonged to the tomb used for the burial of which the letter speaks. The small package was then presumably discovered here by Schiaparelli’s workmen between 1903 and 1905. P. Turin Provv. 3581 sheds some light on the administration of the royal necropoleis in the mid-Eighteenth Dynasty, for which only little information is otherwise available.


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