The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK

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The Egyptian collections of the Ashmolean Museum are one of the most extensive in England. Objects from all periods of Egyptian civilisation from prehistory to the 7th century AD are represented in the collection. Although several objects were part of the original collection, most holdings come from British excavations in Egypt between 1880s and 1930s.

 

Oxford University excavations in Southern Egypt and Sudan from 1910 added a substantial set of Nubian material.

 

The Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan houses a vast collection of papyri, ostraka, writing boards and wooden labels, including the Bodleian Library's ostraka collection.
After a major redevelopment the Museum opened the new Ancient Egypt and Nubia galleries on November the 26th 2011. Most of the newly displayed objects from Deir el-Medina are displayed in a secluded part of the gallery.
The Ashmolean Museum opened its doors to the public in May 1683. The collection was presented to the University of Oxford by Elias Ashmole (1617-1692). The collection was originally founded by John Tradescant (d. 1638), who displayed it to the public for a fee in his house at Lambeth. The collection ranged from natural specimens to man-made artefacts from all corners of the known world.
 
www.ashmolean.org
 
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Photos by Lenka Peacock, 2016, unless otherwise stated
© Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
Naunakhte's will
From Deir el-Medina
New Kingdom, 20th dynasty
Papyrus
This legal document, written in hieratic script in black ink on a sheet of papyrus, is part of a will made by a woman called Naunakhte. It records Naunakhte's distribution of her own property among her 8 children and her decision to disinherit 3 of the children, who she felt failed to look after her as well as they should have in her old age. It sheds some light on the position of ancient Egyptian women and their right to divide the family estate.
Inv. no. AN1945.97(4)
Given by Sir Alan Gardiner
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Naunakhte lived in Deir el-Medina and was married twice. As a very young girl (12 years or slightly older) she was married off to a prominent scribe named Qenhirkhopshef, (over 50) by whom she had no children. After his death, and having inherited Qenhirkhopshef's and perhaps her father's valuables and real estate, she married a workman named Khaemnun, with whom she had 8 surviving children. (Van Heel,2016,2)
Naunakhte's will is dated to year 3 in the reign of King Ramesses V (around 1142 BC). It consists of 4 papyri, one of which is displayed in the gallery and is shown above. Two of the papyri were acquired by Sir Alan Gardiner sometime after 1928 and presented to the Ashmolean Museum in 1945. The other two papyri were found in situ by the IFAO excavations in 1928 (P.DeM23 and 25) (Van Heel,2016,89).
The document was written by two village scribes, one called Amennakht, whose name appears in the 8th line on the right-hand side of this sheet. The document records the oral statement given by Naunakhte before the local court. By this time Naunakhte was very old and perhaps did not have much longer to live.

Year 3, fourth month of inundation, day 5, in the reign of the Dual King, the Lord of the Two Lands
Weser-Ma'at-Re Sekheper-en-Re, l.p.h., the Son of Re, Lord of Diadems like Atum Ramesses
Amen-her-khepesh-ef Mery-Amen (Ramesses V), l.p.h., given life for ever and eternity.
This day, the lady Naunakhte made a record of her property before the following court:
the chief workman Nakhte-em-Mut
the chief workman In-Her-kHau
(12 further names)
She said: As for me, I am a free woman of the land of Pharaoh. I raised these eight servants of
yours, and I outfitted them with everything that is usual for people of their character. Now look, I
have become old, and look, they do not care for me. As for those who put their hands in my hand, to
them I will give my property; (but) as for those who gave me nothing, to them I will not give of my
property.
List of the men and women to whom she gave:
the workman Maaninakhtef
the workman Qenhirkhopshef. She said: "I will give him a bronze washing-bowl as a bonus over an d
above his fellows, (worth) 10 sacks of emmer."
the workman Amunnakhte
the lady Wasetnakhte
the lady Menatnakhte.
As for the lady Menatnakhte, she said regarding her, "She will share in the division of all my property,
except the oipe of emmer that my three male children and the lady Wasetnakhte gave me or my hin of
oil that they gave to me in the same fashion."
List of her children of whom she said, "They will not share in the division of my one-third, but only in
the two-thirds (share) of their father."
the workman Neferhotep
the lady Menatnakhte
the lady Henutshenu
the lady Khatanub
As for these four children of mine, they will (not) share in the division of all my property.
Now as for all the property of the scribe Qenhirkhopshef, my (first) husband, and also his immovable
property and the storehouse of my father, and also this oipe of emmer that I collected with my
husband,will not share in them.
But these eight children of mine will share in the division of the property of their father on equal
terms.

Translation from McDowell,1999,38-40
The Sinuhe ostrakon
Probably from Deir el-Medina
New Kingdom, 19th dynasty (1292-1190 BC)
Limestone
With the exception of religious texts and various standard formulas, few other compositions are represented in as many
copies or partial copies. Two papyri of the 12th and the 13th dynasties provide a fairly complete text. In the Ramesside period during the 19th and the 20th dynasties master scribes and their students copied the text in school on ostraka. This is an example of a large ostrakon containing virtually the whole narrative inscribed on both sides. (Simpson,2003,54)
Inv. no. AN1945.40
Given by Sir Alan Gardiner
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These are both sides - recto and verso - of the largest surviving limestone ostrakon from ancient Egypt. The text is a copy of a story known as The Tale of Sinuhe, originating from the Middle Kingdom, the reign of King Senwosret (around 1918-1875 BC). The main protagonist is a courtier called Sinuhe. He flees Egypt following the announcement of the death of King Amenemhat (around 1938-1908 BC) and has adventures in Syria and Palestine before returning home as an old man.
 
A major theme of the tale is the superiority of Egyptian culture over all others. Although the text was composed during the
Middle Kingdom, this copy was written more than 600 years later. It is written in hieratic script in black and red ink. The Tale was considered a literary classic by the ancient Egyptians and remained in circulation for hundreds of years.
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Stele of Khaemope
From Biban el-Muluk
19th - 20th dynasty
Limestone
Triangular stele with an inscribed column of a hieroglyphic script belonging to the "Servant of the Place of Truth" Khaemope.
Khaemope was not an unusual name among the Ramesside Deir el-Medina community. It is found on stelae, on a block statue, on papyri, in a tomb painting and in tomb graffito. There were several titles appearing with this name - some were just workmen with titles "servant in the Place of Truth", some were ATw-officers, who appear in several court cases and there also was one contemporary "wood cutter" Khaemope.
Inv. no. AN1942.47
Given by Nina de Garis Davies
This stele could have belonged to any of the following Khaemopes:
- to the first workman Khaemope, who was mentioned on the "right side" of the work force in a document dated to the end of the 19th dynasty. Benedict Davis  sees the possibility of identifying him as the "servant in the Place of Truth" Khaemope (iii) who is named on a block statue of his father, the "servant in the Place of Truth" Pashedu.
- Davies also sees the alternative that he may be synonymous with Khaemope (iv), son of Nakhtmin. (Davies,1996,292-293) The tomb TT321 has been assigned to Khaemope (v).
Model of a sandal
From Deir el-Medina
New Kingdom
Wood
Black ink
A model of a wooden sandal, inscribed "Servant of the Place of Truth in the west of Thebes".
Inv. no. AN1952.206
Ex Griffith collection
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List of workmen
From Deir el-Medina
19th dynasty
Limestone
Black ink
Limestone ostrakon inscribed in hieratic script with a list of workmen active in the late 19th dynasty. They are arranged in two groups - the left and the right - in order of their rank within the crew.
Inv. no. HO57
Given by Sir Alan Gardiner
Hieratic papyrus
From Deir el-Medina
20th dynasty
A letter from the draughtsman Hormin to his
father the draughtsman Hori. This papyrus reveals how a decorative scheme (here, carving and painting a royal tomb) was usually executed. Two crews of masons, draughtsmen and sculptors - "the left" and "the right" sides - would have set to work on opposite sides of the royal tomb. Hormin came from a family of draughtsmen; the posts were often passed on from father to son.
Inv. no. AN1958.112
Gift of Sir Alan Gardiner
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"The draughtsman Hor-Min to the father, the scribe Hori [...] in life, prosperity and health, in the praise of Amen-Re, King of Gods. To the effect that: I say to Amen-Re, King of Gods, Mut, Khonsu, and the ennead of Karnak, Grant that you be healthy! Grant that you live! Give to you strength, health and happiness! Further: when my letter reaches you, you should send for the man who will go to receive the grain (for?) the donkey. Look, the god's-father of the temple of Hathor wrote me saying: 'Come to receive it.'
And you should write to reason with the captains so they will promote the servant of yours, so that he will speak with the leaders, to call up that servant of yours, so that he may give me a hand with the drawing: I am alone, since my brother is ill. Those of the right side have carved a chamber more than the left-side. Now, he will consume my rations with me.
Now, witness a commission of Pharaoh, l.p.h., like this one when men are doubled for it! Now when I told it [to] the High Priest, the captains said to me, 'We will bring him up (to the work site). It is not the responsibility of the High Priest.' So they said: Write [...] As for everything my mouth said, I will double it, and more."

Translation from McDowell,1999,215

The draftsman Hormin (Harmin) (i), son of Hori (ix), appears in several ostraka coming from the reign of
the successors of Ramesses III. There is some evidence that he could have been active early in the
reign of Ramesses IV. He definitely occurs later in year 4 of Ramesses IX. Hormin probably survived
until year 17 of the same reign. (Davis,1996,204). Hormin was married to Meramundua (i) with whom he
had 2 daughters - Henutneteru and Isis, and a son named Hori. They are all named in Inherkau's tomb
TT359. It is thought that Meramundua could have been Inherkau's daughter or more likely his cousin.
(Davis,1996,28-29)
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Absence record
From Deir el-Medina
19th dynasty
Limestone
Black ink
Two fragments of a report written in hieratic recording the absence of two workmen from the crew due to scorpion bites.
Inv. no. HO174
Given by Sir Alan Gardiner
Account of grain deliveries
From Deir el-Medina
New Kingdom
Limestone
Red ink
Hieratic account of grain rations delivered to the village, brought from the temple and the king.
Inv. no. 298
Given by Sir Alan Gardiner
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Letter to the king
From Deir el-Medina
New Kingdom
Limestone
Black ink
Hieratic letter to the king reporting that the work on the royal tomb is progressing according to the plan.
The maintenance of regular lines of communication between the work force at the tomb and the central administration was one of the duties of the village scribe.
Inv. no. HO164
Given by Sir Alan Gardiner
Mose's letter
From Deir el-Medina
19th dynasty
Limestone
Black ink
Letter from the village scribe Mose to Pesiur, Vizier under King Ramesses II (around 1279-1213 BC), concerning various commissions.
Inv. no. HO71
Given by Sir Alan Gardiner
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Model letter
From Deir el-Medina
19th dynasty
Limestone
Black ink
Official letters often followed a set formula. This model letter to a Vizier probably served as a template for regular reports sent by the village scribe.
Inv. no. HO79
Given by Sir Alan Gardiner
Report of a visit ostrakon
From Deir el-Medina
19th dynasty
Limestone
Black ink
Report of a visit by the Vizier to inspect the work of the crew.
Inv. no. HO118
Given by Sir Alan Gardiner
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Figured ostrakon
From the Valley of the Kings
New Kingdom
Limestone
Drawing of a left-ward facing profile of a head of a king. The eye is drawn frontally. The king's head is adorned with a short wig with an uraeus on his forehead. There is a collar around his neck. This is a quick but skillful sketch in black ink.
Inv. no. AN1933.804
Sayce bequest
Amennakht's poem ostrakon
From Deir el-Medina
20th dynasty
Limestone
Height: 18 cm
Limestone ostrakon inscribed in hieratic by scribe Amennakht with two poems composed by him. This side contains a poem praising the city of Thebes and expressing his longing for it: "the bread there is finer than goose-fat doughnut, her water is sweeter than honey..." The red dots above the lines are "verse points", which
were used to indicate rhythmic units in literary texts, possibly similar to line-breaks in a poem.
Inv. no. ANAsh.H.O.25
Gift of Sir Alan Gardiner
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The Satire of the Trades ostrakon
From Deir el-Medina
19th - 20th dynasty
Limestone
Limestone ostrakon inscribed in hieratic with part of a text known as The Satire of the Trades. A father took his son to scribal school and praised the scribe's profession by comparison with more menial types of work.
Inv. no. HO356
Given by Sir Alan Gardiner
Stele dedicated to divine cats of Re and Atum
Place of excavation: Deir el-Medina
19th dynasty
Limestone
Black ink, traces of preliminary sketch in red A round-topped stela of painted limestone, in the lower register depicting an unidentified couple worshiping "The Cat of the god Re", and "The Great Cat, the peaceful one, in his
perfect name of Atum" - two aspects of the same solar divinity, both shown facing each other in the upper register.
Inv. no. AN1961.232
Former Armytage collection
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Photo by Lenka Peacock, 2006
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Stele of Amenpahapy
Place of excavation: Deir el-Medina
20th dynasty
Limestone
This stela was dedicated by the Servant in the Place of Truth Amenpahapy. The six serpents represent the cobra-goddess Meretseger. The stela may have been placed in a rock-cut shrine along the path from Deir el-Medina to the Valley of the Kings.
Inv. no. AN1945.15
Gift of Nina de Garis Davies
Photo by Jana Tejkalová 2008
Driving a bull to pasture
Place of excavation: Deir el-Medina
19th dynasty
A figured ostrakon of a herdsman dressed in a pleated linen kilt walks behind a "neg" - bull. In his left hand he holds a short crook and the end of a double tether which was probably attached to the bull's nose ring. In his raised hand he perhaps holds another crook. Above the bull's back is an inscription in hieratic. Above are a pair of copulating goats and two kids.
Inv. no. AN1938.915
Former Nina de Garis Davies collection
Bibl. J. Vander d'Abbadie, loc. cit. pt. 3, pp. 22-27,
pls. IX-XIII.
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Dispute over a hut
Place of excavation: Deir el-Medina
Mid 20th dynasty, Ramesses III
Limestone
Fragmentary limestone ostrakon with a hieratic inscription recording the resolution of a dispute over a hut inherited by the workman Wennofer. The writer of the text, Wennofer, claims ownership of his father's hut, which at the time was being lived in by another workman, who also claimed rights to it. They both went to see the chief workman Khonsu and his deputy to settle their dispute. It was decided that Wennofer had the right to the hut but that he should compensate the other party for any improvements made while he lived there. There follows a list of items made in payment.
The inscription is not written in ink. It is unusual in being cut into the limestone and filled with blue frit, a technique used for formal hieroglyphic inscriptions. Perhaps Wennofer set this ostrakon into a wall of the disputed hut like a stele to publicize his claim to the building.
Inv. no. ANAsh.H.O.655
Gift of Sir Alan Gardiner
Photo by Jana Tejkalová 2008
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[Reporting by] the workman Wen-nefer (and) the
work[man...saying] there be given to me the hut (of)
my father [...] in the presence of:
the chief workman Khonsu
the deputy [...]
[...] And they said to me, "Give him grain [...for the
construction] that he made in it." List of the silver
[given to him...]
box: 2 deben, 3 oipe of it belonging to me
[...from his?] wood
And I made for him a staff [...from?] his wood
and [...] hen-box, X deben [...]

(Translation from McDowell,1999,180)
Photo by Philippa Robins 2010
Hieratic ostrakon
Place of excavation: Deir el-Medina
20th dynasty
Limestone
The ostrakon is inscribed with hieratic signs, numbers and unusual marks. These marks probably represent personal names, and the numbers record the amount of items (probably pots) made by or delivered to them.
Inv. no. ANAsh.H.O.1093
Gift of Sir Alan Gardiner
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Photo by Jana Tejkalová 2008
"Identity marks and their relation to writing in New Kingdom Egypt" is a PhD research programme, planned for May 2011 - August 2015, at University of Leiden under leadership of Dr. Ben Haring. The objectives of the research are to explain the shapes and nature of the marks themselves, and their affinity with writing and to assess precisely how the marks were used
in the workmen’s community – in addition to writing.
 
http://hum.leiden.edu/lias/research/smes/id-marks.html
 
The international conference "Pot marks and other non-textual marking systems from prehistory to present times" was held in Berlin on December 7-9, 2012. The main focus of the event, organized by the Department of Egyptology and Northeast African Archaeology of Humboldt University Berlin within the framework of a research linkage between Humboldt University and Warsaw University, funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, was on pot marks in Ancient Egypt, but other marking systems from Egypt and elsewhere were discussed as well.
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List of receipts for various commodities
Place of excavation: Deir el-Medina
19th dynasty, about 1213-1204 BC
Fragment of a papyrus inscribed in hieratic script with accounts concerning the crew of workmen and sundry individuals. It lists deliveries of food, tools, wood, and
metalworking carried out for them. Most of the entries begin with a date in the season of peret (winter).
Inv. no. AN1960.1283
Gift of Sir Alan Gardiner
Photo by Jana Tejkalová 2008
Figured ostrakon
Place of excavation: Thebes
The head of a bubalis (Antelope bubalus)
Inv. no. AN1938.913
Bought in Thebes
Ex Nina de G. Davies collection
Presented in memory of Kate Griffith
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Photograph by Su Bayfield
The page was compiled by Lenka Peacock using the sources below.
I would like to express my thanks to Dr. Liam McNamara, Assistant Keeper for Ancient Egypt and Sudan, and Amy Taylor, Senior Picture Library and Publications Assistant, both of the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of
Oxford, for their kind comments and assistance with the updating of the page.
All the photographs are reproduced with kind permission of the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford.
The photographs were taken by Lenka Peacock, Jana Tejkalová, Philippa Robins and Su Bayfield.
Sources:
1. www.ashmolean.org
2. Museum's own labels
3. McDowell, A.G.: Village life in ancient Egypt : laundry lists and love songs
Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1999.
4. J. Vander d'Abbadie, loc. cit. pt. 3, pp. 22-27, pls. IX-XIII.
5. Parkinson, Richard: Cracking codes : the Rosetta Stone and decipherement
London : British Museum Press, 1999.
6. Van Heel, Koenraad Donker : Mrs. Naunakhte & Family: The Women of Ramesside Deir al-Medina
Cairo : The American University in Cairo Press, 2016
7. Davis, Benedict G.: Genealogies and personality characteristics of the workmen in the Deir el-Medina community during the Ramesside period. Thesis submitted in accordance with the requirements of the University of Liverpool for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
Liverpool : University of Liverpool, February 1996.
8. Simpson, William Kelly: The literature of ancient Egypt : an anthology of stories, instructions, stelae, autobiographies, and poetry
New Haven : Yale University, 2003.