Nicholson Museum, Sydney, Australia
The Nicholson Museum at the University of Sydney houses the most important collection of the Eastern Mediterranean art within Australia. The foundation of this collection was laid by donation of over 400 ancient Egyptian objects by Sir Charles Nicholson in 1860. Sir Charles Nicholson (1808-1903) was a scholar, traveller, collector of antiquities, books and manuscripts and an influential political figure.
The Egyptian antiquities were collected by Nicholson during his trip to Egypt in 1856-1857. Provenance of many objects has to be meticulously researched and pieced together from fragmentary records, as Nicholson's home in Hertfordshire, England, was destroyed by fire in 1899. Part of his library, containing his archives and papers disappeared in the flames.
The Egyptian collection spans all periods of Egyptian history, from the prehistoric to Roman times. Sir Charles Nicholson donated a large part of the Egyptian collection to the University and further objects were acquired from the Egypt Exploration Fund (now Society) in London from Abydos, Diospolis Parva, el-Mahasna, el-Amrah and Qasr Ibrim during the late 19th and early 20th century.
Photograph © Warwick Barnard 2009
A catalogue of 408 objects collected during the tour was printed in 1858. Edward Reeve published Catalogue of the Museum of Antiquities of the Sydney University in 1870. In 1891 a revised form of the catalogue was
published as Aegyptiaca in London.
The publication was prepared by Joseph Bonomi with the translations of ancient Egyptian inscriptions by Samuel Birch, the Director of the Department of Egyptian Antiquities at the British Museum, and by
D. I. Heath from Trinity College, Cambridge.
I would like to express my thanks to Dr Elizabeth Bollen, Curatorial Assistant of The Nicholson Museum, who kindly supplied the images of the objects and gave me permission to publish them on this web site.
This page would not have happened without the help and encouragement of Warwick Barnard of Sydney.
"Photography © Sydney University Museums"
The text was written by Lenka Peacock.
Hieratic ostrakon with an account of an industrial dispute
Height: 7.5 cm
Width: 11.25 cm
From Deir el-Medina
Inventory number: NM R97
The ostrakon bears part of a text in Ramesside hieratic. The contents deals with the strikes and demonstrations that broke out towards the end of the reign of Ramesses III (around 1155 BC) and seriously disrupted work on the royal tombs for several years. The date on the first line of the recto is lost, but Jac Janssen suggests that the record of the events confirms the first year of Ramesses IV (around 1151 BC) as the most likely date of this ostrakon (Janssen, 1997, p. 164).
The beginning of the text records members of a delegation to the Necropolis. The High Priest Ramessenakhte, the Royal Butler Amenkhew, the Mayor of the City, the scribe of the mat Hori, his colleague Paser, the deputy of the granary Meryptah, and a setem-priest, summoned the two chief workmen together with the two scribes and the rest of the crew (Janssen, 1997, p. 163).
In Aegyptiaca, the ostrakon is described as the 97th object:
"Fragment of Fine Lime-stone, inscribed on both sides in beautiful hieratic handwriting of the time of Rameses in black ink. The same piece of stone had been used before with writing in the same character, but in red ink. The fragment is nearly flat, but not quite square, and probably the inscription is almost perfect. It measures 4 1/2 inches long by 3 inches wide".
The recto contains parts of five lines written in a practised hand, which slopes slightly to the right (Ray, 2006, p. 215).
The translation of this fragment by the Rev. D.J. Heath. From right to left - Lieutenant Amen - territorial scribe Hora, scribe of wine skins, Pioer-Lieutenant of the granaries maise .... of Thoth - forwarded to the citadel of the citadel of the scribe Ament, the scribe Hora. Translation from Aegyptiaca: 1891, p. 38
[Year x, month y, day z: (On) this day (there was) the arrival (?) ... by ... (?) the High Priest of
Amon)(?), Rames]es(?)nakhte, the Royal Butler, Amonkhau, the Royal Butler ... of Town, the
Meryptah, the setem priest, Djehuty [...(?), and they c]ame to the "lock up" of the Tomb, and had
[summoned the] two [foremen], the Scribe Amonnakhte, the Scribe Horisheri, and the en[tire] crew.
Translation from Eyre: 1979, p. 80
[Day ... On this day there arrived ... the High Priest of Amun Ramesse]-nakhte, the royal cupbearer
Amenkhau, the royal butler ... of the City (i.e. Thebes), the accounts scribe Hori of the City, the
accounts scribe Pasiur ... the deputy of the granary Meriptah, the setem-priest Thot-[..., and they
c]ame to the compound of the Tomb. They [summoned the] two [foremen of the gang], the scribe
Amennakhte, the scribe Harsher (alternatively, Hori the title), and the ent[ire] gang.
Translation Ray 2006, p. 215
Copied by Lenka Peacock after Jaroslav Černý's transcription, now deposited in the archives of the Griffith Institute in Oxford, Černý Mss, 17.49.66(3).
The verso contains parts of a further five lines, written in the same hand. The line at the bottom of the ostrakon is partly broken away. It contains a "strike" record. The men were stating that they were hungry and had no wood, no vegetables, and no fish, which was acknowledged by the officials of the lawcourt (Janssen, 1997, p. 164).
The translation of this fragment by the Rev. D.J. Heath. From right to left -
... passage along the road there was thirst...
...they made us pass the road...
...we were fowls, corn, and fishes...
...supplies forwarded to sustain the chief...
Translation from Aegyptiaca: 1891, p. 37
...the gang having walked out, since they were hungry, [saying], "We have walked out because we are hungry; there is no wood, no vegetables, no fish." ... the Tomb. So they went to consult the magistrate[s] of the Council, who declared, "[The people of the Tomb?] are in the right." ...
Translation from Ray 2006, p. 215
The hieroglyphic text copied by Lenka Peacock after Jaroslav Černý's transcription, now deposited in the archives of the Griffith Institute in Oxford, Černý Mss, 17.49.66(3).
The text of the ostrakon represents one among the series of so-called "strike" documents of the mid 20-th dynasty. The known strike texts are similar in style and format: they form administrative memoranda connected with the supply and labour problems of the Royal tomb. Sequence of actions are found on ostraka, for example on O. Cairo 25533, O. Berlin 10633,
O. DeM 571. The best known strike document is the Turin strike Papyrus of year 29 of Ramesses III.
...the gang having walked out, since they were hungry, [saying], "We have walked out because we are hungry; there is no wood, no vegetables, no fish." ... the Tomb. So they went to consult the magistrate[s] of the Council, who declared, "[The people of the
Tomb?] are in the right." ... Translation from Ray 2006, p. 215
[Day ... On this day there arrived ... the High Priest of Amun Ramesse]-nakhte, the royal cupbearer Amenkhau, the royal butler ... of the City (i.e. Thebes), the accounts scribe Hori of the City, the accounts scribe Pasiur ... the deputy of the granary Meriptah, the setem-priest Thot-[..., and they c]ame to the compound of the Tomb. They [summoned the] two [foremen of the gang], the scribe Amennakhte, the scribe Harsher (alternatively, Hori the title), and the ent[ire] gang.
Translation Ray 2006, p. 215
It is generally suggested that the authorship of the Sydney ostrakon belongs to the scribe Amennakhte, who is known as the author of the Turin papyrus. Although Eyre argues that a memorandum of this sort was usually written by one of the scribes present (Eyre, 1979, p. 85), it is not clear that the hand belonged to either Amennakhte or his son the scribe Horisheri. He suggests that perhaps, we are dealing with a "school" of hands closely associated with the early and mid 20th dynasty Deir el-Medina.
In addition to NM R97 there is another object from Sir Charles Nicholson's collection which is listed as possibly originating from Deir el-Medina.
In Aegyptiaca the object is described as No.2. "Portion of a perpendicular inscription in hieroglyphics. According to Mr. Birch, this is the end of the sepulchral formula for a person named Sa-Sati, auditor of plaints (judge) of the lord of the earth, i.e., king.
The forms of the letters are in the fashion of those of Thebes, in the XVIIIth dynasty. This fragment still preserves its original colours, except that the blue, being derived from copper, has turned to a greenish hue. The hieroglyphics are incised. Limestone, 10.5 inches high".
Trapezoidal fragment with carved hieroglyphic inscription
Height: 26.25 cm
Inventory number: NM R2
The signs below n kA n give the title which reads sDm-aS,straditionally translated as 'servant' ('one who hears thessummons'). The first part reads: n kA n sDm-aS n nb-tAwy 'for the ka of the servant of the Lord of the Two Lands'.
The remainder of the inscription is the name of the servant:
sA-wADy mAa-xrw 'Sa-wadjy, justified'.
Translation by Jan Kunst, Holland,2009
Existence of at least six men with the name Sa-Wadjyt/Siwadjet is preserved in textual evidence on stelae, ostraka, and in graffiti, tomb scenes and a papyrus from within and around Deir el-Medina:
Sa-Wadjyt (i), husband of Tawosret, who lived sometime during the reign of Ramesses II,
Sa-Wadjyt (ii), son of Irynefer,
Sa-Wadjyt (iii), husband (?) of Meretseger,
Sa-Wadjyt (vi), son of Tanehsy, whose case is preserved on O Petrie 16 and dates to the very early 20th dynasty,
Sa-Wadjyt (v), father of Qenymin and Sa-Wadjyt(vi), son of Huy.
These individuals lived during the 19th and 20th dynasties. Without
the recorded provenance of the fragment and for the lack of names
of any relatives we cannot attribute the inscription to the
particular Sa-Wadjyt, although a fragmentary stela with a similar
title "servant of the Lord of the Two Lands in the Place of the
Truth" has been commissioned for Sa-Wadjyt (iv).
1. Reeve, E.: Catalogue of the Museum of Antiquities of the Sydney University
Sydney : Cunninghame, 1870. 111 p.
2. Nicholson, C.: Aegyptiaca. Comprising a Catalogue of the Egyptian Antiquities Collected in the years 1856, 1857, and now deposited in the Museum of the University of Sydney.
London : Harrison and Sons, 1891. 150 p.
3. Sowada, Karin N.: Sir Charles Nicholson : an Early scholar-traveller in Egypt IN: Egyptian art in the Nicholson Museum, Sydney. p. -8.
4. Ray, John: Inscriptions and Ostraca in the Nicholson Museum IN: Egyptian art in the Nicholson Museum, Sydney. p. 215-216.
5. Eyre, C.J.: A "Strike" Text from the Theban Necropolis IN: Orbis Aegyptiorum Speculum. Glimpses of Ancient Egypt : Studies in Honour of H. W. Fairman
Warminster : Aris & Phillips, 1979. 201 p.
6. Janssen, Jac. J.: Village Varia : Ten studies on the history and administration of Deir el-Medina
Leiden : Nederlands Instituut voor het nabije Oosten, 1997. p. 163-164.
7. Davis, Benedict George: 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. p. 307-310