1. Introduction

Papyrus Turin Cat. 1883 + Cat. 2095 (https://papyri2020.museoegizio.it/d/10) belongs to the papyrus collection of the Museo Egizio, Turin, purchased as part of the so-called “Collezione Drovetti” (Drovetti Collection) by the king of Savoy, Carlo Felice, between 1823 and 1824.1 Little is known about the papyrus’s find context and place of origin. However, various factors, such as content and palaeography, suggest that it originated from the Theban area, and possibly from the village of Deir el-Medina.2

Although this papyrus has been mentioned occasionally in Egyptological literature since 1876,3 no edition based on the original document complete with images of the papyrus has been published so far. The existing transcriptions and translations into English4 and German,5 though of undoubted value, are based on a facsimile provided by Rossi6 and on unpublished notes collected in Turin by Černý.7 This article aims to fill this gap, providing the first complete publication and edition of the text.

One of the features that has attracted the attention of scholars since 1876 is the name of the king that appears in the first line of the verso. Various attempts have been made to read the name and thereby date the document to the reigns of Ramesses II,8 Ramesses VII,9 or Ramesses IX.10

This will be discussed in detail in the following pages, showing that Ramesses VII is the best candidate.

1.1. Physical description

The papyrus is made up of five directly adjoining fragments (Fig. 1). The larger fragment on the left side of the recto bears the inventory number Cat. 1883, while the four smaller ones on the right side of the recto are inventoried as Cat. 2095.11 The bottom left corner of the larger fragment (Cat. 1883) is not correctly joined to the rest of the papyrus (darker green in Fig. 2). Thus, some of the signs are partially covered or not aligned properly. This becomes clear when looking at the verso, where the long horizontal sign that runs through line 8 drastically changes direction. In its current state, the whole document measures 235 mm in height and 410 mm in length. Two sheet joins are visible, the first one 145 mm, the second 385 mm from the right edge of the papyrus (recto side). Both are around 20 mm wide (21 mm for the left join, 18 mm for the right one), and the right101-104 sheet overlaps the left one (Fig. 2).12 The sheet joins belong to Type IIIA in the classification established by Krutzsch. The short distance between them and the fact that they are sloppily done suggest that the scribe himself joined the sheets.13

P. Turin Cat. 1883 + Cat. 2095, verso. The fragments inventoried under number Cat. 1883 are coloured in green, those under inventory number Cat. 2095 in purple. Digital drawing by Martina Landrino.

P. Turin Cat. 1883 + Cat. 2095, recto. Digital drawing of the two sheet joins by Martina Landrino.

It is uncertain when the fragments were joined and placed in a single frame. In 1926, Černý transcribed the larger fragment (Fig. 3).14 At a subsequent time, he added a red note to the transcription reading: “=Cat. 1883 (+ 2095) see new copy NB 23.55”. The new copy15 (Figs. 4, 5) is the transcription of the whole document, as clearly indicated by the measurements given at the top of the page: “now 22 ¼ x 40 ½ cent.”. Particularly interesting is the use of the word “now”, meaning that the second time Černý saw the text the four smaller fragments had been added to the larger one. Although Černý does not give the exact date on which he worked on the document, a note written some six pages earlier in the same notebook (page 49), mentions the date “19.7.1961”.16 It would seem likely that his notes on P. Turin Cat. 1883 date from a similar point in time, providing a rough terminus ante quem. Thus, the papyrus fragments were most likely joined between 1926 and 1961.

Černý, MSS 3.350. ©Griffith Institute, Oxford.

Černý, NB 23.56. ©Griffith Institute, Oxford.

Černý, NB 23.56. ©Griffith Institute, Oxford.

Today, the recto17 (Fig. 6, 7) preserves three columns of text. The first column is composed of four lines, the first of which, with a preserved width of 210 mm, runs across the papyrus, extending above columns 2 and 3. Only the left uppermost part of the first column is preserved to a width of 65 mm; both the second column (63 mm wide) and the third column (224 mm wide) contain twelve lines, of which the bottom parts are only partially preserved. A 5 mm gap divides the first and the second column, while the second and the third are separated by a margin that measures 48 mm. The verso (Figs. 8, 9), written with the same orientation as the recto (meaning the papyrus was flipped over horizontally and not vertically to write on the other side), preserves one column of text with a width of 195 mm, containing nine lines, the first of which is indented by 75 mm. Traces of palimpsest texts are visible on both the recto and verso. An analysis conducted both with the bare eye and the image enhancement software DStretch did not allow for the identification of any specific signs.

P. Turin Cat. 1883 + Cat. 2095, recto, as currently mounted. Scan by Museo Egizio, Turin. Digital processing by Martina Landrino.

P. Turin Cat. 1883 + Cat. 2095, recto, facsimile. Digital drawing by Martina Landrino.

P. Turin Cat. 1883 + Cat. 2095, verso, as currently mounted. Scan by Museo Egizio, Turin. Digital processing by Martina Landrino.

Turin Cat. 1883 + Cat. 2095, verso, facsimile. Digital drawing by Martina Landrino.

In the Ramesside period, the average height of a papyrus sheet was about 420 mm. If this is also true of the document at hand, then only its upper part is preserved. However, scribes often cut papyrus sheets in half or even into quarters for more convenient use.18 Since neither the text on the recto nor that on the verso can indicate whether this was a standard or half-height roll, it is impossible to reconstruct the exact dimensions of the papyrus.

2. Transcription, transliteration, translation and commentary

2.1 Recto

2.1.1 Col. 1

(l. 1) […wTs].tw=f [… …] wTs.tw=f […]TA=tw […j]⸢A⸣w.t TAty

(l. 2) […] jr=f

(l. 3) […] TAw/nfw ? pA ??

(l. 4) […] 30

(l. 1) […] He is raised (he is denounced?) [… …] He is raised (he is denounced?) [ …] one takes the office of the vizier.

(l. 2) […] He did

(l. 3) […]? the ??

(l. 4) […] 30105-107

Line 1

The reading of the signs at the beginning of the line is debatable. The first word is completely lost except for the determinative of the “legs” (D54) followed by a pronoun. Since the same combination is repeated after the verb wTs, I restored the missing word at the beginning as wTs. The verb wTs “to lift/to carry”19 could be a misspelling of Tsj “to rise/to climb”.20 The verb wTs is also used in legal language meaning “to denounce”.21 If this sentence records a dismissal of the vizier from his office, it is possible that this latter meaning is intended.22

Line 3

If Černý’s judgement (“sehr schlecht geschrieben”)23 seemed a bit harsh until now, this line matches the description perfectly. At first glance, the signs are clearly legible. Upon closer observation, it is difficult to identify them. It is even more problematic to make sense of them. I was unable to, so I must leave this line untranscribed and untranslated.24

Line 4

Černý left this sign untranscribed. A comparison with the sign “30” written in Col. 3 – line 12 shows that the two signs look similar, hence the reading suggested here.

2.1.2 Col. 2

(l. 1) Hmt dbn 60(+x)

(l. 2) naa rwD.w 1

(l. 3) Hatj 1

(l. 4) mSr 1

(l. 5) nHH hnw 1

(l. 6) Sqr 1

(l. 7) gAw.t 1

(l. 8) […] 1

(l. 9) […] 1

(l. 10) […] 1

(l. 11) […] ?

(l. 12) […] (traces)

(l. 1) Copper, deben, 60(+x)

(l. 2) Smooth cloth, rwD.w-garment, 1

(l. 3) Bed, 1

(l. 4) mSr-object, 1

(l. 5) nHH-oil, hin, 1

(l. 6) Sqr-container, 1

(l. 7) gAw.t-chest, 1

(l. 8) […] 1

(l. 9) […] 1

(l. 10) […] 1

(l. 11) […] ?

(l. 12) […] (traces)

Line 1

The line is neither transcribed nor translated by Kitchen.25

It has been interpreted either as a continuation of the second line of the first column26 or as the first line of the second column.27 It starts at the same height as the first line of Col. 3, and is aligned with the other lines belonging to Col. 2. Furthermore, before and after the lacuna (which splits Col. 1 – line 2 and Col. 2 – line 1) there are rather large blank spaces visible. Even though blank spaces are also evident in other areas of the text, they always occur between a word and a number. Therefore, I find Černý’s interpretation (first line of Col. 3) more likely to be correct. However, it is not possible to dismiss the other theory completely.

Line 2

After the scribal palette (Y3), the scribe made a correction, overlapping two signs onto others. Both the scribal palette and the determinative of the word itself clarify that the item mentioned is a textile or a garment of some sort. In his notebook, Černý suggested to read the first sign as DA (U28).28 This reading seems to be paleographically unlikely, since the ligature consists108 of two different signs, one above the other. The reading proposed here is rwD.w,29 which designates a piece of garment rather commonly mentioned in both papyri and ostraca from Deir el-Medina.30

Line 4

The word mSr is not frequently mentioned in the text. So far, it has been generally translated as “table”.31 In a recent contribution, Gabler and Müller suggest the translation “mSr-chair”.32

Line 5

The word nHH33 is usually followed by the determinative of the jug (W23). It cannot be excluded that the dot following the word stands for such. However, since a clear dot was rendered by the scribe, I did not transcribe it differently. Furthermore, a comparison with the jug determinative written after the word following it and also in Col. 3 – line 6 shows that their shapes are different.

The word hnw is written in an abbreviated form. The scribe only wrote the signs essential to understanding the word: the first sign (O4), an oblique stroke (Z5) indicating the abbreviation, and the determinative (W23).

Line 6

The wooden container known as Sqr is often mentioned in the Deir el-Medina corpus.34 This peculiar spelling though, is not common. It is attested only in one other instance.35 Despite its common occurrence in written evidence, it is still not clear what kind of wooden container corresponded to this word.36 Because of its low price, Janssen suggested that it should be an item of small dimensions.37

Line 7

The last preserved word in the column is gAw.t. This item is not as frequently mentioned as the Sqr; thus, the identification of the actual wooden object is rather difficult. Lesko translated the word as “chest/box”.38 Based on its attestations, Janssen thought that it should be a chest rather than a box, since its price is higher than those of the other containers.39

2.1.3 Col. 3

(l. 1) rmT-js.t Qd-jx.t=f

(l. 2) Hsmn ? jrr Hmt dbn 5 rmT js.t Mry-Ra

(l. 3) Hsmn kT ditto 6

(l. 4) Hsmn an(.t) ds 1 jrj n dbn 7

(l. 5) naa dAjw 2

(l. 6) naa sD 1

(l. 7) nHH (hnw) 3

(l. 8) [… …] 1

(l. 9) [… …] qmj 3

(l. 10) [… …]? 1

(l. 11) [jdn]w Jmn-xa.w

(l. 12) [… … …] 32

(l. 1) Workman Qedakhtef

(l. 2) Bronze, jrr-vessel, copper, deben 5, workman Meryre

(l. 3) Bronze, kT-vessel, ditto, 6

(l. 4) Bronze, an(.t)-support (?), 1; making, deben 7

(l. 5) Smooth cloth, kilt, 2

(l. 6) Smooth cloth, loincloth, 1

(l. 7) nHH-oil, (hin) 3

(l. 8) [… …] 1

(l. 9) [… …] ? 3

(l. 10) [… …] ? 1

(l. 11) [Depu]ty Amenkhau

(l. 12) [… … …] 32109

Line 2

The first word in this line has been interpreted as “bronze” or “chisel”.40 Due to the presence of the combined mineral determinatives and the following word jrr, I find “bronze” a more fitting translation.41 The same construction is used elsewhere, for instance O. Cairo 25242, where another jrr-vessel is said to be made out of bronze.42 It is not clear what exact shape the jrr-vessel has. Janssen suggested it could be a drinking vessel.43

Line 3

The same interpretation is applied to this line. Thus, the first word should be “bronze”, followed by a second metal container. Černý transcribed this word as kTb.44 After a closer look at the original, I suggest that the signs Černý transcribed as a leg (D58) and a w (Z7) followed by an untranscribed sign. These should be transcribed as the mineral determinative (N34), the ideogram stroke (Z1), and a jug (W23) for the word kT.45 The kT-vessel seems to be designated by the same signs in other attestations.46 This vessel is likely to belong to drinking crockery, but its exact shape is difficult to identify.47

Line 4

So far, the object listed has been read as anw with no attempted translation of the word, or as an(.t) meaning “adze.48 The “adze” is mentioned in both ostraca and papyri and it is generally identified by the determinative of the adze itself (U19).49 In this text, the word an(.t) has the combined mineral determinatives and is followed by another word left untranscribed in the previous hieroglyphic transcriptions.50 I transcribed the word as the hand (D46) on top of the latch (O34). An an(.t) ds made out of bronze is also attested elsewhere.51 This item is most likely a circular support for vessels and jugs.52 Its position within the text (right after the drinking vessels) could support the reading here suggested.

Line 5

Various translations have been proposed for the word dAjw, such as “loincloth” or “kilt/skirt”. Following Janssen’s interpretation, the word is translated here as “kilt”.53

Line 6

The sD is usually mentioned right after the dAjw. For this reason, Janssen proposed that the latter should be identified as a kilt or skirt, and the former as a triangular loincloth.54

Line 7

The nHH-oil is followed directly by a number, with no indication of the capacity measure. However, this number should refer to the hin measure.

Line 8

The only sign legible is the number 1; the other traces are too poorly preserved to be legible.

Line 9

Due to the determinative (V19), this entry possibly lists a basket. I am not able to provide a suggestion regarding its name.

Line 11

The first word in this line is only partially preserved. Its position in front of a name suggests that it could be a title. I agree with Černý’s suggestion to read it as jdnw.55

Line 12

The traces at the beginning of this line are too poorly preserved to be legible. The following number indicates a rather large amount compared to the other numbers present in the same column. Whether this is the indication of the total price of the objects listed above, it is difficult to say, since some objects are listed with their prices in deben, while for others only the quantity is given and not their worth.

2.1.4 Comment on content and writing

The beginning of the recto is highly damaged. From what is preserved it is difficult to understand if it is related to the commissioning of the tools described on the verso. Therefore, I treat them separately.

The meaning of Col. 1 is unclear, especially that of the first line. The suffix pronoun =f expresses the110 subject. The person it refers to is lost. The sentence ends by mentioning the taking of “the office of the vizier”. The Egyptian verb used to convey this action is jTA “to take, to remove”.56 Perhaps it refers to a dismissal of the vizier.57 The only other attestation of such an event is recorded in P. British Museum EA 10055, where it is said that a vizier “will be dismissed from his post”. Even though the term used to describe the discharge is rwj58 instead of jTA, it is possible that the same deed is intended. In this case, the two verbs preceding jTA, i.e., wTs, could have been used with the legal meaning “to denounce”. Due to the lack of parallels and to the state of preservation of the text, this is simply put forward as a suggestion.

The other columns contain an inventory of various items, such as garments, woodwork, and metalwork. In Col. 2, the objects are registered with their quantity and not their value. Perhaps the first entry, “X deben of copper”, indicates their total sum – although the sum is usually indicated at the end of lists and preceded by the word dmD “total”. In this document, the amount of copper could be an item itself. How long the list was and what other items were listed is hard to determine. During the New Kingdom, inventories appear on both ostraca and papyri. The latter are often reserved for more complex lists, recording great quantities of objects belonging or being delivered to institutions, such as temples or “The Tomb”.59 The list preserved in P. Turin Cat. 1883 differs from those. The small quantity of objects listed, seldom more than one object per type, and the items themselves point towards a private transaction, namely payments or divisions of goods.60 The text gives no indication regarding either the occasion on which the list was drawn up or the motivation.

At least three people were involved: two workmen named Qedakhtef and Meryre, and a deputy named Amenkhau. Possibly, another name was written in Col. 2 – line 1, but the traces are not legible. The deputy Amenkhau is the only one who is clearly identifiable. There is indeed only one deputy recorded under this name, Amenkhau (i).61 The identification of the two workmen is a more complicated matter. Four different workmen are recorded with the name Qedakhtef. Davies identified the one mentioned in the text with either Qedakhtef (iii) or (iv), following Bierbrier’s interpretation.62 For Meryre, Davies lists four workmen under that name. He narrows the possibilities down to Meryre (vi) and (vii). However, neither seems to fit within the context, one being too early, the other too late.63 The interpretations are based on chronological evidence. Davies dates the text on the recto to year 8 of Ramesses VII. Even though the verso is clearly dated to that period, the recto could be of a different date. The presence of the deputy Amenkhau could indeed be an indicator of this, as he was in office from year 17 of Ramesses III to year 7 of Ramesses IV.64 Therefore the text on the recto could be earlier and mention the older Qedakhtef (i) or (ii), and Meryre (iv) or (vi). On the basis of the information preserved, their identification cannot be narrowed down any further.

Similar texts, describing smaller transactions, are often written on ostraca rather than papyri.65 The majority of these documents have been analysed under several respects as inexhaustible sources for the study of the daily life of the workmen of Deir el-Medina. As a result, not only their content but also their vocabulary is well-known, allowing a comparison with the text presented in this study. Among the items mentioned, some are commonly present in documents, e.g., the Hatj, while others are rare, for instance the mSr.66 The latter is attested only a dozen times, one occurrence being on an ostracon, part of which is held in the Museo Egizio, Turin (Suppl. 9765A) and the other part at the IFAO, (O. DeM 105).67 The text preserved on this ostracon has certain similarities with the one preserved on the papyrus of this study.

The first object listed in O. Turin Suppl. 9765A + O. DeM 105 is Hatj, followed by other items of which some also appear in P. Turin Cat. 1883, namely mSr, Sgr, and gAw.t.68 The list then continues with entries about metal objects and garments. The two inventories seem to follow the same principle: first woodwork, then metalwork, and then textiles.69 Even the objects in the first category are recorded in the same order. Exceptions to this pattern are the intrusions of the “rwD.w-garment” before the “bed” and of the “nHH-oil” after the “table”. The same pattern is attested on another ostracon, O. Ash. Mus. 204.70 The first three items enumerated are Hatj, mSr, and nHH.111 Of course, three examples are not enough to prove the existence of a rule behind the enumeration of the objects in inventories. What we can say, in any case, is that the inventory in P. Turin Cat. 1883 resembles the ones preserved on ostraca.

2.2 Verso

(l. 1) n nswt (Wsr-MAa.t-Ra 4tp.n-Ra) sA Ra nb xa(.w) ({Ra}Jt-Jmn)

(l. 2) rnp.t-sp 8 Abd 4 Smw sw 25 hrw pn Hn nA Hmtj.w {n}

(l. 3) jn nA Hwtj.w {n} nA rwDw.w n pA xr sS pr-HD 1rj n

(l. 4) tA Hw.t <r>-xt pA Hm-nTr {n} tpy n Jmn

(l. 5) aA n js.t Nxw-m-Mw.t

(l. 6) aA n js.t 1rj-ms pA (sic)

(l. 7) tA rj.t wnmj m Dr.t aA n js.t Nxw-<m-Mw.t>

(l. 8) Hmty dbn 280 jri n xnr 40 [wa] ⸢nb⸣ dbn 7 […]

(l. 9) mDA.t (?) (Hr)-a sS pr-HD […]

(l. 1) Of the King Usermaatra Setepenra, son of Re, Lord of Crowns, Itamun.

(l. 2) Regnal year 8, 4th month of shemu, day 25, this day: commissioning the coppersmiths

(l. 3) By the captains and the rwDw-agents of The Tomb, and the treasury scribe, Hori, of

(l. 4) The temple, <under> the authority of the high priest of Amun,

(l. 5) The chief workman, Nekhemmut,

(l. 6) (And) the chief workman, Harmose, the (sic)

(l. 7) the right side, from the chief workman, Nekhe<mmut>:

(l. 8) Copper, deben 280; making spikes, 40; each [one], deben 7; […]

(l. 9) Chisel (?), in the charge of the scribe of the treasury […]

Line 1

Its position indented by 75 mm in respect to the other lines clarifies that this is an addition to line 2, to be inserted after the date.71

In his notes, Černý described the document as “sehr schlecht geschrieben”.72 This applies particularly to the royal titulary, where the reading of some signs is still doubtful. For the convenience of the reader, the previous transcriptions are listed below in chronological order:

1- Černý (1st):73

2 – Černý (2nd):74

3 – Eyre:75

4 – Kitchen:76

The first four signs can be read clearly; however, scholars differ on the transcription of the following112 signs. With the exception of Černý (1st), the bottom part of the cartouche’s opening has been rendered invariably as a simple dot. Possibly, this dot is a simplified writing77 of the sun disk (Gardiner N5), a fundamental part of the praenomen which would otherwise be missing. The rest of the signs inscribed in the cartouche complete the name of the pharaoh Wsr-MAa.t-Ra 4tp.n-Ra, ending with the divine standard (G7).78

Fig. 10


P. Turin Cat. 1883 + Cat. 2095, verso: detail of line 1.

The hieratic signs that follow (Fig. 10) are more difficult to explain. Černý (1st) transcribed them as the closing of the cartouche and the epithet “Son of Re” with an ideogram stroke behind it . In his second transcription he did not transcribe them at all, leaving the signs in their hieratic form. Eyre, followed by Kitchen, saw a defective writing of the name Mry-Jmn in this sign group. Hitherto these interpretations have been per se plausible; however, a papyrus stored in the same papyrus collection at Museo Egizio sheds new light on the matter. This document, P. Turin Cat. 1891,79 contains an example of a better-preserved royal titulary written by the same scribe, as visible in Fig. 11.80 After the praenomen of Ramesses IV, 1qA-MAa.t-Ra 4tp.n-Jmn, again ending with the divine standard, the same problematic signs appear. Seeing as the name is complete here, the two vertical strokes can hardly be anything else than the closing of the cartouche. These signs and the group following are paleographically very similar to the ones discussed above in P. Turin Cat. 1883 and occupy the same position in the text. Therefore, I consider the reading “Son of Re” preferable to the solution that argues for a defective writing of the name Mry-Jmn, which seems impossible in this latter case.

Fig. 11


P. Turin Cat. 1891, recto: detail of line 1.

Turin Cat. 1891 is also relevant for the interpretation of the next hieratic group. Černý and Eyre presented two different transcriptions. The first recognized the signs as a badly executed writing of “Lord of Crowns”, the second as “Lord of the Two Lands”. The same group, at the end of line 1 of P. Turin Cat. 1891, has been read invariably as “Lord of Crowns”. This interpretation is proved true by two considerations: the title “Lords of the Two Lands” already appears earlier in the line, and the title “Lord of Crowns”, in combination with “Son of Re”, is expected as an introduction for the second cartouche.81

When Černý saw the papyrus for the first time in 1926, the document had not yet been joined together. He could only work on the larger fragment. His first transcription ends with the opening of the second cartouche. Indeed, after the praenomen of the Pharaoh one would normally expect the nomen. This hypothesis was strengthened by the presence of the epithets that normally introduce the second cartouche, i.e., “Son of Re” and “Lord of Crowns”. The second time he worked on the document, however, when the papyrus had been joined with the other fragments, Černý was confronted with a blank space instead of the expected cartouche.82 He consequently modified his first transcription, choosing not to read the title “Son of Re” and converting the opening of the cartouche into a simple oblique stroke followed by “sic” (Fig. 5).

Among the editors who worked on this text, Černý was the only one who saw the original document.83 All other transcriptions are based on his notes. With the help of DStretch,84 it has been possible to obtain an image with enhanced details, revealing traces of ink that are difficult to see with the naked eye. In particular, this investigation has revealed the second cartouche with the nomen of Ramesses VII113 (Fig. 12). The addition of the sun disk right after the opening of the cartouche, although not necessary, is a well-known phenomenon that occurs both on ostraca and in papyri.85 The signs that follow are interfered with by some heavy traces of palimpsest.

Fig. 12


P. Turin Cat. 1883 + Cat. 2095, verso: detail of line 1. Dstretch(lbk) manipulation by Martina Landrino.

Line 2

The verb Hn is followed by the determinative of the “legs” (D54). This determinative is usually applied to the verb Hn when it means “to hurry” or “to go”.86 In this case, however, the content of the text indicates that the translation “to commission”,87 normally followed by the determinative of the “papyrus roll” (Y1), is to be preferred.

The line ends with some faded, yet legible, signs. These are the determinatives for the word Hmtj.w, i.e. “coppersmiths”: the “striking man” (A24), the “seated man” (A1), and two horizontal lines below. While the presence of neither man is surprising, the double horizontal lines are an unusual feature in this case. The same group of determinatives appears in the next line, used in the words “captains” and “agents”. Here, the first horizontal line stands for the three vertical strokes (Z2), marking the plural. The second line represents the preposition n that expresses the indirect genitive. I chose to apply the same reading to the hieroglyphs at the end of line 2, although grammatically nothing is needed between the noun and the preposition jn at the beginning of line 3.88

Line 3

The word “captains” occurs with two different spellings: Hwtj.w, and Hntj.w. The peculiar form used here, with an intrusive n, is an indication that the text was composed after the middle of the 20th Dynasty.89

Line 4

The scribe omitted the r in writing the preposition (r-)xt, “under the authority”.90 Gardiner notes that this preposition is used to introduce a person of higher rank.91

The scribe also inserted a superfluous horizontal stroke underneath the “seated man” (A1). Either the stroke represents the “water ripples” (N35) and should be read as n, or it stands for the three vertical strokes of the plural. Both readings however do not fit well with the translation. In the first case, a preposition or a genitive n would divide the noun and the adjective, which would be grammatically incorrect. In the second case, the three vertical strokes would make the noun plural, even though explicitly marked as singular by the article pA.

Line 5

The chief workman of the right side, Nekhemmut (vi),92 is a well-known character. His name is spelt here in a unique way. After the ligature n+x, the scribe inserted a “striking man” (A24), usually not present, followed by two oblique strokes and another “striking man”. The same spelling is used in line 7. This could be a writing specific to this scribe, since it also appears in another text by him.93

Line 6

The name Harmose is composed of two parts. The first, a “falcon” (G5) followed by a “reed leaf” (M17) which is still preserved, the second, an “oblique stroke” (Z5) on top of a “seated man” (A1), the latter sign being damaged. The reading is complicated by the modern assemblage of the fragments. As already pointed out above, the two adjoining fragments are imperfectly joined.94 Thus, the upper sign merges with the lower one.

The last two signs – aligned differently because of the misplacement of the papyrus fragments – are possibly what remains of the second part of Harmose’s title, the complete form of which is “chief workman of the Tomb”. While the first part is written before the personal name, the second one (pA 2r) usually appears usually after it. In this instance, the scribe wrote pA and for some obscure reason left out 2r.95

Line 7

The spelling of the name Nekhemmut is similar to the one analyzed in line 5. The first part is written114 with the same peculiar spelling, while the second part is left out. However, the title preceding the name allows the latter to be restored in its complete form.96

Line 8

I translate the word xnr as “spike”, following Janssen’s interpretation.97

Line 9

This line is rather damaged and the reading proposed here is far from certain.

The word at the beginning of the line, , has been read as mn “remaining”, mnx “chisel”, Hsmn “bronze”, or simply left out.98 The combination is indeed problematic and none of these suggestions fits perfectly. The “pestle” (U32), with the meaning “remaining”,99 which is often used alone in administrative texts, in this case is combined with the sign N34. If we interpret the word as “bronze”, the “pestle” (U32) would be followed by the combination of determinatives generally used to classify minerals (N33+N34), which for example appears in line 8 in combination with the word “copper”.100 Furthermore, a comparison of existing transcriptions101 with the original shows that an “owl” (G17), whose upper part is broken, precedes the “pestle” (Fig. 13). Thus, the readings “remaining” and “bronze” are less likely.

Fig. 13


Turin Cat. 1883 + Cat. 2095, verso: detail of beginning of line 9.

Although, the presence of the m would appear to confirm the reading mnx, two main issues make this reading problematic. Firstly, the mnx-chisel is usually determined by the “mortise chisel” (U22) or the “chisel” (U23).102 Secondly, this would be the only attestation of this word in the Deir el-Medina corpus. Possibly, in Deir el-Medina the chisels were referred to as mDA.t.103 For this reason, I chose to read the word as mDA.t rather than mnx. This interpretation is also questionable, since it implies that the scribe confused the “fire-drill” (U28) with the “pestle” (U32).104

The following signs, a long horizontal line and a vertical stroke crossed by a small horizonal stroke, have been invariably transcribed by the scholars who studied the papyrus as an “arm” (D36) followed by an “ideogram stroke” (Z1).105 The identification of the vertical stroke as an “ideogram stroke” is not prevented by the presence of a horizontal line going across it.106 The scholars who studied the papyrus translated the word a as “in the hands of/with”, taking it to be a defective writing of the preposition m-a or (Hr)-a(.wy), or the word “item”.107 As the Wörterbuch states, a meaning “item” is used in connection with numerable nouns and it precedes the numbers.108 Hence, in this text the stroke following the “arm” would have to be interpreted as the number one rather than an “ideogram stroke”, resulting in the translation “item, 1”. This translation is per se plausible, but it would leave the following title without a preposition or an article introducing it. For this reason, I chose to interpret the word a as a defective writing of a preposition, namely (Hr)-a(.wy) “in charge of”/“in the hands of”. The absence of the m and the presence of the ideogram stroke make the reading m-a less likely. The first part of the preposition (Hr)-a(.wy) can indeed be left out.109

Little can be said on how the line continued. Most likely, the title was followed by a name. Perhaps another attestation of the scribe of the temple treasury, Hori.

The workforce of Deir el-Medina was equipped daily with state-owned tools for their tomb-construction work. The administration of the “Tomb” was responsible for the manufacturing, delivery, and collection of these tools. Once they were worn out, they were handed over to coppersmiths to be recast into new tools.110 This last activity is described on the verso of Pap. Turin Cat. 1883 + Cat. 2095. Different authorities were present to oversee it: the captains and the rwDw-agents of the Tomb, the treasury scribe of the temple, and the two chief workmen of the left and right sides. The mention of the captains followed by the two chief workmen is peculiar, since the captains consist of the two chiefs themselves and the senior scribe of the Tomb. Furthermore, to whom exactly the title “rwDw-agents of the Tomb” refers is still115 under debate. They could either be the very same people acknowledged as “captains of the Tomb” or “external agents acting as representatives of the vizier”.111 The presence of a scribe of the temple treasury during this kind of activity is also attested elsewhere.112 Among the myriads of scribes named Hori,113 it is difficult to understand which one exactly is mentioned here. The unusual title assigned to him, sS pr-HD n tA Hw.t, makes the identification even more problematic.114 Whether this official was part of the smd.t-personnel of the temple or not is still a debated question.115 On the other hand, the identification of the other two people mentioned is certain. Both chief workmen, that of the “right side”, Nekhemmut (vi), and that of the “left side”, Harmose (ii), are well known.116

As for the amount of deben indicated in the text, do they represent the price or the weight of the spikes? The examination of different written sources relative to metal objects and tools led Janssen to the conclusion that the answer can vary depending on the text, some texts mentioning the price and others the weight. It should also be taken into account that in the case of simple tools such as spikes there may be a small difference between price and weight.117 Due to their rather high weight, Janssen thought that the word xnr could refer to tools such as those that Petrie called “round bar chisels”.118 In 1905, during Museo Egizio excavations at Deir el-Medina, archaeologists found some specimens of these, for instance Turin Suppl. 7514 (Fig. 14) and Turin Suppl. 7517 (Fig. 15), both made out of bronze and weighing respectively 499.3 g and 502 g.119 Their weights fit well with those of the spikes described by Valbelle in her Catalogue des poids, where she pointed out that the average weight of these tools is 500 g, thus allowing one to identify them as “ciseaux au burin”.120 Even though the items mentioned in P. Turin Cat. 1883 are slightly heavier, the interpretation proposed by Haring – i.e. it is the weight that is intended ̶ seems most reasonable due to the context and wording.121 It is clearly stated that 40 spikes will be made out of the 280 deben of copper, 7 deben (about 637 g) of copper each.122

Turin Suppl. 7514. ©Museo Egizio Torino.

Turin Suppl. 7517. ©Museo Egizio Torino.

The copper is handed over by the “chief workman of the right side”. His colleague, the “chief workman116 of the left side”, despite being present, is not mentioned as an active part of the exchange. Perhaps the lost part of the document contained the commissioning of the coppersmith for the left side of the gang. Or perhaps, as suggested by Gabler, Nekhemmut was in charge of both sides of the gang. In that case, the number of spikes mentioned is to be referred to the entire gang, resulting in 20 spikes per side. This hypothesis is strengthened as other sources mention the reception of 20 spikes for each side of the workforce.123 A final question needs to be addressed, regarding the place in which the commission took place. Following Gabler, there are two main options, namely the Valley of the Kings or the xtm n pA xr.124 The information preserved in the text does not allow us to narrow down the possibilities to a single option.

3. The date of the text

So far, the most debated question has been that of the date of the document. In 1876 Pleyte translated the heading as “Du roi (sutu) Ra. usr. ma stp. n. ra anχ ut’a snb, seigneur des diadèmes”.125 He recognized the praenomen of Ramesses II and therefore assigned the text to his reign. This theory was then accepted by the compilers of the first catalogue of the Egyptian antiquities housed in Turin.126 However, the identification with Ramesses II already appeared problematic for scholars at the beginning of the 20th century.

The main issue was the presence of the two foremen, Nekhemmut and Harmose. They are attested as serving together only under the reign of Ramesses IX. Peet suggested that the document should be dated to this reign and that the first line is not part of the date.127 He did not offer any explanation as to why the name of Ramesses II was present in the heading of a document drafted a hundred years later. For the next fifty years, this hypothesis was accepted within the scientific community. However, doubts remained. For instance, Janssen assigned the papyrus to Ramesses IX, pointing out, though, that “Year 8 can only belong to the reign of Ramesses IX – unless Ramesses VII also reigned more than 7 years, which is not impossible”.128

A solution that accounted for both the praenomen and the people mentioned in the text was proposed in 1980 by Eyre, who showed that the reign of Ramesses VII is the only plausible date for the text.129 Contrary to what Peet thought, the first line of the text does belong to it and is part of the date. The confusion was generated by the correspondence of the praenomen of Ramesses VII with that of Ramesses II. It has been already discussed at length that the heading preserves not only the praenomen of Ramesses VII but also his nomen, leaving no doubt that the reference is to this king.130

The recto did not attract the attention of the scholars as much as the verso did. Pleyte and Rossi did not spend much effort describing it – “les débris du revers sont de peu d’importance” – and no facsimile was provided.131 In previous studies, it has been assumed that the recto dates to the same period. This hypothesis is paleographically possible, since it appears indeed to be written by the same scribe.132 As already pointed out above, the relationship between the texts on the recto and that on the verso is not clear. Furthermore, it is difficult to understand whether the three columns on the recto belong to a single text.

Concerning the note on the vizier, the content does not provide any hints (e.g., regnal date or names) about the period it dates from. The inventory, on the contrary, does contain some scant information. For instance, the names of the people involved. The presence of the deputy Amenkhau is particularly interesting, his activity spanning the reigns of Ramesses III and Ramesses IV.133 It is reasonable to assume that this list was drawn up within that chronological span, specifically, from year 17 of Ramesses III to year 7 of Ramesses IV. The other two names preserved do not allow us to further narrow down the time span. Nevertheless, one should not overlook the possibility that the text is either a copy of an earlier document or mentions it, and was indeed written in the reign of Ramesses VII.

4. Scribal practice

As said above, the texts on the recto and verso were probably written by the same scribe, who is also the author of P. Turin Cat. 1891, as a comparison between distinctive signs shows (Table 1). One of the peculiar features of this scribe’s handwriting is the rnp-sign (M4). Normally, it is written with a vertical stroke and an oblique one connected to it.117 In our case, instead, the sign is executed with a single movement linking the two strokes. The xa-sign (N28) in the title nb-xa.w also stands out due to its unusually flat shape. Furthermore, the four examples of the pA-sign (G41) listed in Table 1 show how the scribe traced the signs more carefully at times. The first pA is written in a more refined way, with more attention to details such as the wings, whereas the other examples have a more basic shape.

A comparison of significant signs in P. Turin Cat. 1883 + Cat. 2095, recto and verso, and P. Turin Cat. 1891, recto and verso.

On the basis of the dates of these papyri, it can be assumed that this scribe was active during a period that runs at least from the 2nd year of Ramesses IV to the 11th year of Ramesses IX.134 It is tempting to try to assign a precise identity to the scribe comparing this time frame with the known chronologies of individuals bearing the title of “scribe of the Tomb”.135 Such an attempt is not without risk. It is reasonable to guess that the author of texts such as the recto of both P. Turin Cat. 1883 and P. Turin Cat. 1891 would have served in the administration of the village as a scribe. One should also consider that at Deir el-Medina the percentage of literates was higher than in the rest of Egypt. The scribes were not the only ones able to read and write.136 Consequently, it is impossible to be certain that the writer of the documents officially bore the title of scribe. Therefore, in this case an identification based only on the chronology of “scribes of the Tomb” is not a valid approach.

Finally, the last issue that should be addressed regards the materiality of the document itself. The papyrus, as we see it today, is the outcome of a writing and erasure process:

  1. The recto was inscribed. It bears scant traces of a previous, erased text, especially in the upper-right corner and at the bottom. The original extension of the text(s) and their content are not identifiable. The verso was inscribed. The enhanced images obtained with DStretch (Fig. 12)137 show the traces of a two-column palimpsest text that runs to full height, covering the entire surface of the papyrus. The surviving evidence does not allow an understanding of the original extension of the text or its content.
  2. The recto was erased and used again. As already discussed above, the inventory on the recto dates to an earlier period than the verso,138 suggesting that the recto was reused before the verso was used. To date, the recto preserves two different texts. The layout can provide some hints about the order in which these texts were written. The 1st column is compressed and almost no space separates it from the 2nd. Contrary to this, the 2nd and the 3rd columns are divided by a rather large space. It is possible that the inventory was already present on the papyrus and the other text was written in the blank spaces around the existing text.
  3. The last phase is the reuse of the verso, which is erased and written again. The newly written text occupies only a small portion of the papyrus sheet and a high margin is left blank at the top of the document.

Video 1

“Biography” of P. Turin Cat. 1883 + Cat. 2095. Video by Martina Landrino.

The above recreated “biography” (Video 1) is hypothetical. We need to allow for the possibility, for instance, that the inventory was a later copy of an older text. In this case, it is not possible to determine if it was written before or after the verso. The reproduction of information from one source to another, especially from ostraca to papyri, is a well-attested process.139 The possible reason for copying such information onto another writing surface is difficult to establish in this case.

The last question that needs to be addressed is how the papyrus was kept by its owner(s). A number of vertical breaks run in a “wavy” pattern throughout the surface of the papyrus at regular intervals, thus fitting into Krutzsch’s category B, “wellig”. According to Krutzsc, these traces are primary breaks caused by rolling up the sheet.140 The papyrus preserves five windings:

  • an incomplete one, measuring 24 mm;
  • four complete ones, measuring respectively (from left to right) 80 mm, 90 mm, 96 mm, 105 mm.

Flattening the scroll onto itself caused the fractures that run in the middle of the windings. The increasing dimensions of the windings from left to right indicate that the papyrus was rolled up starting on the left side and leaving the right side exposed.141 In Video 1, each winding received a different color gradually getting darker when approaching the interior of the scroll. Based on the measurements of the breaks, the preserved sheet should have had a maximum circumference of 105 mm with an approximate diameter of 33.4 mm.142


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