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rooms of the British Museum
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|On November the 19th 2005 the class of
the Birkbeck College course "Real life at
Deir el-Medineh" visited the British Museum
with Rosalind and Jac Janssen. Eleven
objects originating from Deir el-Medina were
waiting for us in the Ancient Egyptian
department's study area/library. All the
photographs on this page are © of Steve
Bayley, a colleague on the course, and were
taken by kind permission of the Trustees of
the British Museum.
The accompanying text is written by Lenka
Stela of Paneb
19th dynasty, circa 1195 BC
Height: 19.3 cm
Width: 17 cm
In the top register : Paneb, a foreman of the
tomb-workers, is depicted kneeling, worshiping the
goddess Meretseger, who is in the form of a
serpent. The coiled cobra is doubtless Meretseger,
the goddess of the Theban necropolis.
The lower register : there are three kneeling male
figures, Paneb's descendants. On the right there is
Aapakhte, Paneb's son, together with his two sons -
Paneb and Nebmehyt. Aapakhte was accused of
crimes as an accomplice of his father.
Stela of Paneb
19th dynasty, circa 1195 BC
Height: 20 cm
Width: 13 cm
Top register : kneeling Paneb depicted worshiping
Meretseger in the form of a cobra headed goddess in
shallow sunk relief. Meretseger is seated on the throne.
Lower register: Paneb's sons Aapakhte and Hadnakht are
shown kneeling and worshiping.
Both registers are accompanied with simply incised text.
The top and bottom corners on the left side of the stela
are chipped, but otherwise the stela is well preserved.
There are no traces of colour.
Stela of Aapakhte
19th dynasty, circa 1200 BC
Height: 21.2 cm
Width: 14 cm
Depth: 2.5 cm
Aapakhte was son of Paneb and a royal craftsman and a deputy
of the crew in the Place of Truth. He is shown adoring the god
Seth. The figures are both carved in sunk relief and are
accompanied by incised text. The writing of the text is erratic
as can be seen in the word ỉdnw and the reversal of the pḥty-
sign in the owner's name. The craftsman's name is a play on
the phrase aa-pehty meaning "great of strength", one of the
epithets of Seth. During Ramesside times Seth became a
patron of Egypt along with Amun, Ra and Ptah.
Jac Janssen suggested it was likely the stela came from the
rock shrine of Ptah and Meretseger judging by the limestone
and the saw-cut bottom edge.
Stela of Khamaul
The stela depicts the deceased Khamaul seated. His
left hand is outstretched towards an offering table piled
with food. He holds an object in his right hand, possibly
an ankh sign.
Khamaul is identified here as the 3h ikr n R'. the term
by which these stelae are known today. It can be
translated as "the able spirit of Re" or "the one who is
continually effective to/for/on behalf of Re". Khamaul
represents the divinized private ancestor to whom
petitions could be made by the living. Most of the stelae
were originally painted. We could see some remains of
red pigment left on the stela.
Height: 19 cm
Width: 13 cm
Stela of Pabaki
Height: 38 cm (case)
Width: 29 cm (case)
This large 3h ikr nR' stela of Pabaki depicts the
deceased seated in front of an offering table. He
holds a lotus in his left hand. In the lunette at the
top there is a depiction of a deity seated in a sacred
Stela of Nefersenut
Nefersenut was the biological father of Paneb.
He is depicted in the top register kneeling
with a brazier containing an offering before
the goddess Hathor, who sits on the throne.
The lower register shows three kneeling
figures. On the left there is Nefersenut's
eldest son Paneb, who was to rise to the post
of foreman of the workmen, next to him his
son Aapakhte, and on the right there is the
son of Paneb's daughter, Paneb's grandson.
Four generations of Paneb's family are
A letter from Kenna to the god Amenhotep
Hieratic ostrakon O.BM5625
Clearly dated ostrakon, well-written in horizontal lines
Contains a letter, where Kenna complains that
Merysakhme wanted to share the chapel that Kenna
Year 4 (of Ramesses IV), IV 3ht (inundation) 30.
This day, the workman Kenna, the son of Siwadjit,
reported to King Amenhotep, the Lord of the Village,
saying: “Come to me, my good Lord. It was I who
rebuilt the chapel of the workman Pakharu when it
And look, the workman Merysakhme, the son of
Menna, does not let me sit in it, saying:
‘It is the god who told me to share it with you’.
So he said, although he had not built it together with
[At the bottom of the recto and at the top of the
verso (actually the same side of the sherd] something
verso “…… give the chapel back to
Kenna, its owner.
It is his, by order of Pharaoh, and
nobody shall share it with him”. So
said the god, in the
presence of: [the 2 foremen, the
scribe, the bearers of the god,
and the entire gang], at the
entrance of the tomb of Kaha.
[Merysakhme had to swear that he
accepted the verdict]
Amennakhte felt that he himself should have been chief workman and that Paneb had taken the job
from under him by bribing the vizier. His aim was to have Paneb dismissed on the grounds that he
was unworthy and incompetent. The charges he lists here vary from criminal offences to evidence of
The list of charges starts with claiming that he bribed the vizier with 5 servants to gain his
a) He was charged with stealing ‘the cover of a chariot’ from the tomb of Seti II.
b) Charges relating to goings-on with married women or women who were living with other men.
Hel was one of the women mentioned. Herysunnebef, husband of Hel, was the other adopted son of
Neferhotep, and he later divorced Hel, as we know from another source.
c) Stealing stones from the tomb of Seti II for use in his own tomb and using the workmen to
work in it (but maybe this wasn’t so bad as other people also used the workmen).
d) The row with Neferhotep, which resulted in Paneb being punished by the vizier. Paneb appealed
to pharaoh himself and had the vizier sacked. Paneb evidently was in favour with the right people!
e) He stole the bed from the tomb of a colleague on which the dead workman was lying.
f) He stole a large spike and hid it behind a big stone when a search was made for it.
Other charges include sitting on the king’s sarcophagus when the king was in it, drinking and
urinating. He also stole a model of a gilded goose from the tomb of Henutmire who was a wife of
Ramesses II and daughter of Seti I. The goose was found in his house, and it may have been with
this crime that Paneb went too far.
How far are all these charges reliable? Some of them are not uncommon, but Paneb may have
overdone things with the number and variety of his misdeeds. The alleged bribery of the vizier may
in fact have been a gift, which Paneb gave in thanks after the event.
Given in exchange for the ox, which Amenmose brought:
5 smooth ghalabiyehs, makes 25 deben copper
1 smooth sheet, makes 10 deben
1 bed with matting, makes 25 deben
1 bed, makes 12 deben
1 hin (=½ litre) honey, makes 4 deben
15 hin oil, makes 10 deben
5 deben of scrap copper
1 wooden coffin, makes 20 deben
1½ khar of grain, makes 8 deben
Given to him by Amenkha‘u: 5 deben
Given to him: 1 pair of sandals
Given to his daughter: 1 mat and 10
loaves (this is for the 5 deben)
Given to him: 1 pot of beans
Vs. Total 119 deben of
EA 10416 (verso)
Former Salt collection
Height: 23.5 cm
Width: 22 cm
11 lines on the recto and 13 lines on the verso
Jac Janssen suggested the grey colour of the sheet
indicated a palimpsest ( a manuscript page from a
scroll or book from which the text has been scraped
or washed off and which was used again).
In the commentary to his translation, Janssen
summarises the text: A married man, very probably
Nesamenope, had an adulterous relationship for 8 full
months with an unnamed woman, incensing the friends
and relations of his legal wife.
|A receipt for an ox
Hieratic ostrakon O. BM 5649
Recto: Listo of goods delivered in return for an ox, showing value in deben with clearly marked numbers.
An ox represented a substantial investment.
Verso: Summary of various values "w makes y deben".
Jac Janssen pointed out that texts without dates can sometimes be assigned approximate dates by
studying the style of the writing and the language uses. The names of any known workmen mentioned in
text can be used as clues.
Translation from Janssen, Jac: Commodity prices from the Ramessid period :
an economic study of the village of necropolis workmen at Thebes
Ostrakon of Khnummose
Black and red ink
Height: 16.5 cm
Width: 20.2 cm
Figured ostrakon showing the workman
Khnummose worshipping the serpent form
of the goddess Meretseger.
Jac Janssen suggested that this ostrakon
had been used as a stela and that the
work was not finished.
The verso shows several different
inventory references, indicating
the object has been in several
|Papyrus Salt 124 (verso)
Late 19th dynasty, c. 1200 BC
From Deir el-Medina
The papyrus contains the petition of the workman Amennakhte denouncing the
crimes of the foreman Paneb
1. Shaw, Ian, Nicholson, Paul: British Museum dictionary of ancient Egypt
London: British Museum Press, 1995.
2. Janssen, Rosalind and Janssen, Jac. J.: Growing up and getting old in ancient Egypt
London : Golden House Publications, 2007.
3. McDowell, A.G.: Village life in ancient Egypt : laundry lists and love songs
Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1999.
4. Pharaoh's workers : the villagers of Deir el-Medina / edited by Leonard H. Lesko
Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 1994.
5. Les artistes de Pharaon : Deir el-Médineh et la Vallée des Rois : Paris, musée du Louvre, 15 avril - 5 aout 2002
Paris : Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2002.
6. Bierbrier, Morris : The tomb-builders of the pharaohs
Cairo : The American University in Cairo Press, 1982.
7. Janssen, Jac. J.: Late Ramesside letters and communications
London : British Museum Press, 1991. (Hieratic papyri in the British Museum VI, 1991).
The page was last modified on January 21st 2013
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The text on this page was composed by Lenka Peacock.
Photography © The Trustees of the British Museum.
The photographs were taken by Steve Bayley 2005.
They blamed the woman and threatened to beat her up as well as her people, but were restrained by a
steward. In a message the steward sent to the woman he expresses his doubts as to the reasons for
her behaviour and urges the man to go to court with his own wife, evidently in order to get a "legal"
divorce - whatever that meant in those days - then he might live on with his lover if he chose. If,
however, he neglects this advice, the steward washes his hands of him and will not again try to restrain
the people when they seek out the woman (Janssen,1991,32).