About this object

A flake of limestone (ostracon) used as a writing surface which records accounts and notes about work done in the workman’s community village of Deir el Medina. Both sides have black carbon ink inscriptions in hieratic with red ochre ink used to tick off items on the list. Professor Mark Collier of the University of Liverpool provided a brief account of the inscription in 2013: “The recto opens with four lines specifying items given to an unnamed individual at a series of festivals (festivals of Taweret, Hathor and Meretseger). Lines 5 onwards are repeated instances of giving (but without specified occasion), all probably as recompense for some activity. The verso starts with a section (verso lines 1–5) of memorandum of items connected to work of 'my three lads', possibly people within a workshop. Verso line 6 end is a memorandum concerning a bed which ends up with Anupemheb, who saws off some wood for use in a coffin”.

In1873 Samuel Birch, of the British Museum, examined it and described it as a "having on one side 10 lines and on the other 9 lines of hieratic. It contains a statement or list of certain things delivered to certain persons on the occasion of a festival. Amongst the things mentioned are corn, vase or oil, and other objects." (MS 7 November 1873).

A transcription of the hieratic into hieroglyphic script was made by Professor Eric Peet on the museum record card, beneath a short description of the object by Professor Percy Newberry. Newberry writes: “Limestone ostracon with hieratic inscription on recto (10 lines) and on verso (9 lines)”. Peet adds more information for the recto: “Numbers are checked in red ink. Lines 1, 2, 6 and 7 ruled through in red”; and for the verso: “Numbers are checked by second hand in red”.

The object was borrowed by Professor J. Černy for study at the Griffith Institute, Oxford University (returned 17 July 1952) and is included in his publication with Dr Alan Gardiner, ‘Hieratic Ostraca’ (1957, pls 63 and 63a). The description they give is: ”Limestone, inscribed on both sides [arrows] in the same hand; complete, several lines cancelled in red. Sundry accounts and memoranda about work done. Many figures ticked off by red dots”.

Object specifics

  • Type
  • Culture
    New Kingdom
  • Artist/Maker
  • Place made
    Africa: Northern Africa: Egypt: Thebes: Deir el Medina
  • Date made
    1550 BC - 1069 BC
  • Materials
  • Location
    World Museum, Level 3, Ancient Egypt Gallery
  • Acquisition
    Gift of Joseph Mayer
  • Collector
    Joseph Mayer
  • Place collected
    Africa: Northern Africa: Egypt: Thebes: Deir el Medina
  • Date collected
    1850 about
  • Measurements
    20 mm x 120 mm x 175 mm
  • Related people
    Joseph Mayer ( Collector, previous owner)
  • Related documents/media

Explore related


  • Hieratic Ostraca

    Černy, J Professor; Gardiner, Alan H

    Author: Černy, J Professor; Gardiner, Alan H
    Publisher: Aris & Phillips Ltd
    Date: 1957

  • Les registres de recensement du village de Deir el-Medineh (Le Stato Civile)

    Demarée R J; Valbelle, D

    Author: Demarée R J; Valbelle, D
    Publisher: Peeters
    Date: 2011
    Description: Discovered in 1923 by G. Botti, the census records of the villagers of Deir el-Medina, preserved in the Egyptian Museum in Turin, are improperly known as the "civil Stato." Consisting of more than one hundred fragments of papyrus that are part of the Drovetti collection, this impressive puzzle received the attention of E. Schiaparelli and J. Cerny, who have provided the first retained hieroglyphic transcription of the hieratic text. After the discovery of new fragments and several rounds of additional analysis by Robert Demaree and Dominique Valbelle, they put together this critical work. It includes rare documents from the archives of Pharaonic Egypt that were stored - in a pitiful state - as part of the archives of the twentieth dynasty and include sheets of papyrus on which the composition of households was registered. Composed of fragments of several successive lists, they are nevertheless a cornerstone for the study of censuses in antiquity. After analyzing in detail the remains of the registry, the authors devote a chapter to the expression of identity in Pharaonic Egypt, to other house lists, and to other similar records. They study the shapes and patterns detected in the census documentation and list the indications of possible interests for contemporary data from the civil status of individuals. This book sheds new light on the maintenance of files of Pharaonic times and on people management in ancient Egypt.


Previous owners

  • Joseph Mayer

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Purchased
    Owned until: 1867
    Disposal method: Donation
Object view = Humanities
Found media!
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