Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology,
University College London

The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology is one of the largest of its kind in the world, and a highlight of UCL Museum
& Collections. The Museum was created in 1892 through the bequest of the writer Amelia Edwards (1831-1892), as a teaching resource of the Department of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology. The uniquely important collection grew considerably thanks to the excavating career of Flinders Petrie (1853-1942) and provides a valuable insight into lives of ancient Egyptian people.
 
                                                                      https://www.ucl.ac.uk/culture/petrie-museum
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I would like to express my thanks to the Petrie Museum and its staff, whose time and help have been essential during  my visits between 2007 and 2010. The curator Stephen Quirke kindly gave me permission to publish the ostraka picturess on my website, Tracey Golding and Ivor Pridden have been generous with their time and assistance.
All images © Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, UCL
Photography Lenka Peacock.
 
Deir el-Medina stelae, offering tables and other fragments from the Petrie Museum
The New Kingdom stelae very often show the owner in adoration in front of deities. The position of honour seems to be the left, so the deities occupy that area, and may be seated, while the owner stands to their right. Stelae of the 18th dynasty often show only the owner, his wife and his children. Stelae of the Ramesside period may include other family members.

The upper parts of offering tables were often carved with the loaves, trussed ducks and vessels, so that the stone-carved images could serve as magical substitutes for the real food offerings. Usually the hieroglyphic offering formula and/or lists of produce are also present. Sometimes there were grooves or channels cut into the surface of the table so that liquids such as water, beer or wine could be poured on to the table.
UC14446
From Deir el-Medina
19th dynasty, around 1295-1186 BC
Limestone
Offering table of Penrennut, "Servant in the Place of Truth" as the central column of hieroglyphic inscription on the base of the table states. The inscription is flanked by 2 columns of incised vegetation motifs, most probably depicting lotuses. The damaged spout carries remains of incised depictions of a crude cake on one side and possibly two leeks on the other side.
Length: 18.5 cm
Width: 14.5 cm
Depth: 4.75 cm
July12-2007_086-1.jpg
We cannot attribute this offering table to either of the 3 known Penrennuts, who lived at Deir el-Medina and possessed the title "Servant in the Place of Truth" with certainty. Penrennut (i), who lived in the village during the reign of Ramesses IV, was married to a lady called Tadehnetemheb. His father was called Nakhtmin. He appears together with his family on Bankes stela no. 10 - nowadays in the National Trust, UK collection at Kingston Lacy. On the basis of dating the object to the 19th dynasty by the museum curators, it could have belonged to the two earlier workmen, Penrennut (iii) and Penrennut (iv), a cup- bearer, lived at Deir el-Medina during the reign of Ramesses II and Merneptah respectively (Davies,1996,251-252).
UC14354_024-2.jpg
UC14354
From Deir el-Medina
20th dynasty, about 1160 BC
Limestone
Offering stela of a person seated to the left of the offering table. A young male on the right side stands in the posture of reverence. Above the male and the offering table there is an inscription, consisting of seven short vertical columns of hieroglyphs (damaged at the right), identifying both men as "3h ikr n R'", "the able spirit of Ra". The seated man is named Djaydjay, the standing man Khnum-[...]. At the top register there is a boat of Ra coloured yellow and red. Traces of red, yellow and blue pigments are surviving on the rest of
the stela.
Height: 29 cm
Width: 22.5 cm
UC14354_032-3.jpg
UC14354_021-4.jpg
UC14229
From Deir el-Medina
19th dynasty, around 1186-1295 BC
Limestone
Offering table of Anakht, "chisel-bearer in the Place of Truth' (king's tomb craftsman).
Hieroglyphic inscription inscribed around the edges. Only the right half of the object is in the museum.
Height: 18 cm
Width: max. 12 cm
July12-2007_089-5.jpg
Dec18_2007_048-6.jpg
UC14439
Found at Thebes, probably from Deir el-Medina
19th dynasty, 1295-1186 BC)
Limestone
Width: 14 cm
Height: 7.5 cm
Upper part of a votive stele showing a coiled cobra with double falcon plume on her head.
The worshipper's name is illegible in the hieroglyphic inscription, the rest reads "beloved of the goddess  Meretseger".
UC14379
Possibly from Deir el-Medina
Ramesside Period (1295-1069 BC)
Limestone
Height: 20.5 cm
Width: 14.5 cm
Fragment from a tomb. In the lower left side of the fragment there is an upper part of a royal head and face with uraeus
on the forehead. Above the head there is a cartouche of Ahmes Nefertari, the queen of Ahmose I (1570-1546 BC), the
mother of Amenhotep I (1551-1524 BC).  
Dec18_2007_104-264x346.jpg
Dec18_2007_101-375x292.jpg
UC14599
From Deir el-Medina
19th dynasty (1295-1186 BC)
Limestone
Width: 32 cm
Height: 18.5 cm
Fragment of a stela from the tomb of Khawey, who had a title "Guardian in the Place of Truth".
The stela shows a pair of human heads on the left side and a male head on the right side. There is a hieroglyphic
inscription around the head on the right.
UC14423
Probably from Deir el-Medina
20th dynasty (1186-1069 BC)
Limestone
Height: 20 cm
Width: 12.7 cm
This is a right-hand part of a framed stele of Kaha.
It shows the deified Amenhotep I (1551-1524 BC) standing to the left, holding a spear in his left hand. The two cartouches next to him identify him as Amenhotep Djeserkare. To his right there is a priest standing in adoring position. The priest's name is written in a hieroglyphic inscription above his head.
Dec18_2007_072-252x334.jpg
DSCN3057-418x314.jpg
UC34325
From Deir el-Medina
Ramesside period, (1069BC-1295BC)
Limestone
The fragment comes from a tomb wall and comprises the remains of three horizontal registers. The background was painted yellow and also remains of reddish and blue pigments are visible.
Height: 29.5 cm
Width: 23.2 cm
From the Mary Broderick bequest
Top register: leg and foot in a sandal on the left side, before the words "on the west of Thebes" (hr imnt W3st).
Also visible are the remains of the white skirt.
Middle register: "... made by (likely with the meaning: son of) one who is greatly favoured by...", [...r.n Hsy aA n ...]
[with many thanks to Jan Kunst from the Netherlands for the translation and transliteration]
Bottom register: a couple facing to the right, only the heads remain. The man is wearing a cone on his head, the woman - according to the inscription "his wife" (hmt.f) wears a cone on her head and a blue lotus on her forehead. Her name is illegible.
UC16551
From Deir el-Medina
18th dynasty, (1550 BC-1292 BC)
White limestone with traces of painting (red pectoral and mentat etc). Originally the
bust would have had a brightly painted floral collar on the chest, symbolising rebirth and
the collars offered by the living at the "Beautiful Feast of the Valley", when they
visited the tombs of their ancestors.
The lower corner of the "oracular bust" is damaged.
Height: 20 cm
Width: 10 cm
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Seventy-five examples of small anthropoid, oracular or ancestral busts have been revealed duringexcavations at Deir el-Medina. They generally do not bear any inscriptions, but some are inscribed for specific individuals. Typically small, they measure from 10 to 25 cm in height (there are 2 known bigger busts, one of which is the bust of Muteminet EA 1198 in the British Museum measuring 51 cm) and are made of limestone or sandstone. We can assume that most were originally painted as remains of pigment on some are evident. The gender of the most of the busts is open to question.
The figures are referred to as 'ancestor busts'. It is thought that they were placed in the small shrine areas which seemed to form part of private homes, and played a part in the private devotions of the family. Five busts were found in houses at Deir el-Medina, where they could have been placed in wall niches in the first and second rooms. The wall niches are comparable in size, so this seems probable.
Rather than representing anyone in particular, the busts anonymous nature suggests that they represent all the ancestors whom the family might wish to commemorate. Another theory is that they represent "the able spirit" of those, who had been authoritative in life, by inference, the older members of the community. In troubled times people turned to them for help, i.e. to a parent still remembered, not to an ancestor of long ago. Some of these must have been older women.
The busts could have been transported from  house to tomb or chapel where identification, if desired, could be supplied by the inscribed stelae, offering tables, or naos-shrine. As the "3h ikr", they carry on the traditions associated with 3h since the Old Kingdom, especially in the requirement for feeding and in its function as the 3h-statue resting within the 3ht-shrine (Friedman, p. 97). The ancestor busts are mentioned in the Book of the Dead under spell 151, "the spell of the head of
mysteries". It reads: " hail to you whose face is kindly...your head will never be taken away".
Similar objects have been found at fourteen other sites from the central Delta to the Third Cataract.
They were found in or near houses as well as in tombs and temples. Whether the context was domestic or religious we cannot be sure, but it is understood that for the worshiper the ancestor busts conjured up memories of a deceased relative.
Ancestor bust-shaped amulets occur as jewelry during the New Kingdom.
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UC14228
From Deir el-Medina
20th dynasty, (1186BC-1069BC)
Limestone with traces of pigment
The funerary stela was dedicated by Thutmose. He is depicted on the left side, seated on a chair and holding a lotus to his nose. Three columns of hieroglyphs above his head read from right to left: "Ax jqr n Ra DHwtjj-ms = The effective akh of Ra, Thutmose.” He faces his brother who stands opposite him and pours a libation with his right hand. In his left hand he holds a censer. The brother is named in the remaining three columns, read from left to right, as "ir.n sn=f sS pA-irii n st mAa.t = Made by his brother, the scribe Pairy of the Place of Truth". They are both likely to be members of the Deir el-Medina workforce.
At the top of the stela there is a lunette, broken away on both sides. Wedjat eyes, one now missing, used to flank the horizon above the inscription.
Height: 22.4 cm
Width: 13.3 cm
Thutmose is identified as "ax iqr n Ra", "the able/effective spirit of Ra". The akh-spirits were the blessed dead, those who had attained a seat in the sun-bark of the god Ra.
Their magical powers protected them from the dangers of the afterlife. They could also use them for or against the dead and the living. To become an akh (plural akhu) one had to know the magic spells, perform funerary rites and have the gods,
especially Ra, intervene on one's behalf. Over 50 stelae from Deir el-Medina testify to the existence of household cults devoted to deceased relatives who had become akhu. The spirits could be dangerous if offended, and the offerings to the akhu were both propitiatory and reverential.
Deborah Sweeney re-examined the stela in her article The akh iqer Stela University College London 14228 Reconsidered - a Sign of Gratitude? (Sweeney,2020, pp. 257-275) . She argues that one possible donor might have been Merysekhmet (iii), who was also known as Payiri, and that this donation would result in this so far disreputable member of the Deir el-Medina workforce being seen in a fresh and favourable light.
UC14545
Stela of Irynefer
19th dynasty
From Deir el-Medina, tomb 290
Limestone
The lower part of this round-topped stela is missing. The upper part displays remains of a raised relief of the god Ptah shown from the front.
At the bottom of the right side of the stela there is a remainder of a depiction of a man with his arms raised in adoration - his head facing to the left and his hands survived. The left bottom side shows remains of a heaped offering table. The rest of the stela is filled with 5 columns of hieroglyphic inscription, where the worshipper is identified as Irynefer, servant in the Place of Truth.
Height: 22 cm
Width: 20.5 cm
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UC14574
Probably from Deir el-Medina
Pyramidion of Nebamun
19th dynasty (1295-1186 BC)
Limestone
Of the 4 sides of this pyramidion, 3 sides are inscribed. Below is the depiction of a man with intricate hairstyle shown in the pose of adoration with his arms raised. He wears a pleated kilt. The hieroglyphic inscription mentions name of Nebamun.
Height: 18.5 cm
Width: 15 cm
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DSCN3052-333x410.jpg
Sources:
1. Museum's own labels
2. Museum's website at https://www.ucl.ac.uk/culture/petrie-museum
3. 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.
4. Trope, Betsy Teasley: Excavating Egypt : Great discoveries from the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, University College London
Atlanta : Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University, 2005.
4. Friedman, Florence: Meaning of some anthropoid busts from Deir el-Medina
IN : The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 71 (1985), pp. 82-97.
5. Sweeney, Deborah: The akh iqer Stela University College London 14228 Reconsidered - a Sign of Gratitude?
IN : Text-Bild-Objekte im archäologischen Kontext : Feschrift für Susanne Bickel. Hamburg : Widmaier Verlag, 2020. pp. 257-275.
Figured ostraka at the Petrie Museum
 
The Petrie Museum collection of figured ostraka comes in its major part from purchases Flinders Petrie made in Egypt, mainly in the Theban area. The places of origin of these ostraka and the dates of their purchase were not recorded and are still to be researched. The fact, that most of them are just drawings lacking inscriptions, means that it is more difficult to establish their place of origin, than it is for the hieratic ostraka, where the names of people involved in transactions are recorded and might be known to us from other sources. But most figured ostraka are probably from Thebes, specifically from Deir el-Medina, or from places, where the Deir el-Medina artisans worked. Possible future analysis and study of the limestone structure could help in locating more accurately their places of origin.
The fact, that authenticity of some of the figured ostraka in the museums around the world is debatable and some of the pieces could be modern forgeries, has been recognised and written about. To my knowledge none of the Petrie ostraka have been so far identified as possibly being executed in modern Egypt rather than in ancient Egypt.
The collection consists of drawings in black, or in black and red mineral based pigments. The drawings are executed on small pieces of limestone or terracotta sherds. They illustrate every stage from an apprentice's first attempts to the most elaborate draughtsmanship. Some ostraka show the underlying sketch in red ink. Themes of the ostraka vary from gods and royal personages to ordinary men and women, animals represented by mammals, birds, insect and reptiles and even architectural and furniture elements, boats and individual hieroglyphs.
Some ostraka were clearly the practise pieces of pupils, whose work was subsequently corrected by their teachers. These pieces allow us to learn their techniques. Some ostraka were products of the moment and often bear themes and motives that do not appear in official art. They are unique treasures of original works of art. As freedom is allowed to the artist, these glimpses illustrate fascinating aspects of the ancient Egyptian culture and life.
I would like to express my thanks to the Petrie Museum and its staff, whose time and help has been essential. The curator Stephen Quirke kindly gave me permission to publish the ostraka images on my web site, Tracey Golding and Ivor Pridden have been generous with their time and assistance.
© Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, UCL
Photography Lenka Peacock. The text was composed by Lenka Peacock mainly based on divisions and descriptions of Anthea Page's black & white publication of 1983 with additional sources.
UC33221
Upper part of Osiris or a king
19th dynasty (?)
Possibly from Deir el-Medina or Abydos
Limestone
Black pigment
Height: 11.7 cm
Width: 9 cm
Upper part of a king or Osiris facing to the left. The figure wears the Atef crown (effectively a "white crown" with plume on either side). A large uraeus is attached to the crown. His eye is drawn frontally, the eyebrow and the cosmetic line are extended across the temple as parallel lines. Both the ear and the nose are large.
There is a suggestion (in: Calverley, A.: The temple of King Sethos I at Abydos, vol. IV. Chicago, 1958, pl. 18) that, the large aquiline nose indicates a portrait of Seti I, Ramesses II or Merneptah. All those pharaohs were portrayed with a nose like that, which was in contrast to the straight noses of the 18th dynasty predecessors. For this reason it was suggested that the ostrakon could be a student copy from a temple relief or from a painting from the temple of Seti I at Abydos.
The figure wears a false beard. His garment is tight fitting and has a narrow collar. His hands are holding three objects: the closest one to the figure is "hk3" sceptre - the crook symbolizing the government, the middle one is "w3s" sceptre - whose primarily function in funerary context was to ensure the continued welfare of the deceased, and the flail or "nekhakha" on the left. All three of them are prominent items in royal regalia. Before the flail became part of royal regalia, it was associated primarily with the god Osiris.
W.H. Peck argues (Peck,1985,15) that the shape and curvature of the false beard tends to suggest a god rather than a king. The kings' beards tend to be straighter and squared-off at the end whereas the beards of gods are curved and rounded, which he points out is the case here.
UC33256
Osiris
New Kingdom
Limestone
Black pigment
Figure of a seated god Osiris facing to the right.
He wear the atef crown and a false beard, a divine attribute of the gods. He sits on a throne, which stands on a raised platform. Behind the figure of Osiris, there is the "imiut" fetish, consisting of a decapitated animal skin hanging at the top of a pole, which is a symbol of Anubis, who is associated with the mummification process linked to Osiris.
At the right top corner there are three columns of a hieroglyphic inscription.
William Peck (Peck,1985,15) points out that the condition and preservation of this piece make it difficult to decide whether the seated Osiris is related to the platform or whether the elements are parts of two unrelated drawings.
Height: 9.2 cm
Width: 11.3 cm  
UC33249
Horus
New Kingdom
Limestone
Drawing of a falcon depicting the god Horus facing to the right and standing on a  base line. There are traces of a crown on his head and a flail, the royal insignia, at his side. Three serpents stand in front of him.
Black pigment
Height: 10 cm
Width: 12 cm
UC33195_007-331x429.jpg
UC33195
Ptah
New Kingdom
Limestone
Black ink
Figure of a standing god Ptah facing right. He is placed
within a shrine. The sloping pedestal on which the god
stands may represent the mound of creation or the
craftsman's level and the hieroglyphic symbol for truth
(maat). He is depicted as a mummiform figure with his
feet together and with his hands protruding from his
tightly wrapped shroud which is his conventionalized
characteristic. He holds the `nh-sign in his right hand,
and w3s-sceptre and dd-pillar in his left hand. He wears a close fitting skull cap. His beard is straight rather than the usual curved divine beard found on other Egyptian gods. He wears a large tassel at the rear of his garment.
The god Ptah's original cult association seems to have
been with craftsmen. He was revered at Deir el-Medina.
Height: 13.1 cm
Width: 10.1 cm
UC33192
Ptah
Ramesside Period
Limestone
Black pigment with traces of underlying sketch in red pigment Figure of a seated god Ptah facing towards right. He wears a tight fitting cap, with his large ear protruding, and a long false beard which curls up towards the end. His cloak is also tight fitting. The collar is drawn more carefully than in the ostrakon above. Anthea Page  identifies the object, hanging at the back of the collar, as a tassel (Page,1983,3), while William Peck argues, it is probably a schematic rendering of the menat counterpoise (Peck,1996,15). Both hands, placed one above the other, protrude from the garment and hold a dd-pillar and was-sceptre. The drawing breaks off at this point and just above the figure's knees. The top of the seat that the god
sits upon is depicted underneath the figure.
Height: 11.1 cm
Width: 7.8 cm
OstrakaSep13_004-265x344.jpg
UC33190
Lion-headed goddess and a worshipping figure
New Kingdom, around 1550-1350 BC
Limestone (more dense)
Red pigment
Standing figure of a goddess, who is depicted as a lion-headed woman, with a sun disc and uraeus on her head. Her face is turned to the right towards a worshipping figure in a elaborate pleated gown, typical of the late New Kingdom. The worshippers hands are in a gesture of adoration. The goddess wears tight fitting dress with straps over her shoulder. She holds a staff or sceptre in her left hand.
Both the Museum catalogue and Anthea Page (Page,1983, p. 63) identify the goddess as Sekhmet, William Peck (Peck,1985,15) disputes the identification on the grounds that there is no further indication that it is Sekhmet. He points out the fact that there are some 30 lion-goddesses
listed among the ancient Egyptian gods and thus the figure here could also be Bastet, Mut or Tefnut, among others, who are shown as lion-headed.
Height: 13.6 cm
Width: 11.7 cm
UC33196
Thoth
New Kingdom
Potsherd
Red pigment
The upper part of the god Thoth depicted as an ibis-headed man. He stands inside a shrine and faces to the right. His head is drawn in a profile, his upper torso is drawn from the front. He wears a moon and disc on his head. His left hand holds "w3s" sceptre. There are very faint traces of an hieroglyphic inscription - 3 columns to the right of the figure and 2 columns behind him. The inscription was scraped off in the past and cannot be read.
Height: 10.1 cm
Width: 9.7 cm
UC33191b-280x372.jpg
UC33191
Thoth
New Kingdom
Limestone
Black ink
The upper part of a standing figure of the god Thoth who is depicted as an ibis-headed man facing right. The lunar disk and crescent on his head symbolize the moon's phases. He wears a tripartite wig. His shoulders are drawn frontally. He wears a short skirt with a broad band across his body and over his left shoulder.
Height: 18.7 cm
Width: 10.6 cm
UC33225
Amun
New Kingdom
Limestone
Black ink
Drawing of a head of a ram probably representing the god Amun. He is facing towards right. His large horns curve around his ears. He has got a serpent drawn on top of his head.
Height: 7 cm
Width: 7.7 cm
UC33226
Ram
New Kingdom
Black ink
Potsherd
Drawing of the head and the forepart of a kneeling ram facing right. It has got long wavy horns. There are traces of faint hieratic inscriptions, perhaps reading as "may you be divine in..."
Height: 5.2 cm
Width: 8.4 cm
UC33224
Ram
New Kingdom, 1550-1350 BC
Black pigment
Potsherd
Drawing of a ram facing to the right. He has got long horizontal horns on his head. There is a faint base line and two horizontal lines, one behind the ram, the other one, shorter, at the top of his head, starting in the middle of the horns. It was suggested that the line might represent uraeus.
The drawing might be a representation of the god Khnum.
Height: 6.8 cm
Width: 8 cm
Oct12.2007_025-289x261.jpg
UC33229
Jackal lying on winged disk
New Kingdom
Potsherd
Black ink
Drawing of a jackal lying on top of a large pair of wings
with solar disk and uraeus, facing right. The wings of a
hawk are symbolizing Horus. Since Horus was associated with the king, the winged disk  came to have both royal and protective significance, as well as representing the heavens through which the sun moved.
Height: 11.3 cm
Width: 10.4 cm
UC33812
Meretseger
New Kingdom, 1550-1350 BC
Limestone
Black ink
Drawing of a serpent - a rearing cobra - in front of an offering table/vase/metal stand. The hood of the cobra is dilated and patterned. The base line is indicated.
Meretseger was the goddess of the pyramidal peak which lies above the Theban necropolis. Her usual name was "she who loves silence". She was primarily worshipped by the workmen of Deir el-Medina.
The stand resembles metal stands for vases found in Theban tombs. This form of stand appears on coffins,
generally under the offering table depiction.
Height: 7.3 cm
Width: 9.4 cm
UC35812b-340x289.jpg
UC33198
Figure of Bes
New Kingdom, 1550-1069 BC
Limestone with traces of several different pigments
The figure of the god Bes is depicted in his usual frontal
squatting pose. His arms are outstretched, each upturned
hand is holding a shallow bowl. The image is outlined in
black, the details are painted in several colours. Bes is
usually depicted naked, but here he wears a short kilt
with a long wide ribbon in the front and red patterned
garment around his shoulders. A plumed headdress adorns his head. A pair of large wings is depicted on his back reaching all the way to the ground.
Bes was one of the most popular and widespread deities
in ancient Egypt. He was associated with sexuality and
childbirth as protector of the family. Remains of wall
paintings depicting Bes were discovered at Deir el-Medina
during excavations. This ostrakon could have had the
function of a protector of family members and could have
been placed within the household shrine.
The ostrakon was conserved at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London.
Height: 11.7 cm
Width: 11.3 cm
P3018635-338x327.jpg
UC33194
Figure of Isis
New Kingdom, 1550-1069 BC
Limestone
The goddess is depicted in kneeling position.
Both her arms are outstretched with large wings spread below them. Each of her hands holds a big bunch of lotuses. The hieroglyphic sign of a throne on top of her
head indicates her name. The pose of a kite hovering over the deceased is typical of her protective role in the afterlife.
Preliminary outlines and the artist's grid are visible in red, the final drawing being executed in black pigment.
Height: 11.4 cm
Width: 7.3 cm
UC33193
Figure of Hathor
New Kingdom, 1550-1069 BC
Chert
Recto
Hathor is depicted as a piebald cow standing on a sledge. Her eye is drawn in the form of wedjat eye, a symbol for strength and protection. She is wearing menat necklace, a
symbol closely associated with her. It was of protective nature and used to be worn for good fortune. Hathor is smelling a large lotus blossom that curves in front of her. There are 5 lotus plants below her body.
Verso
There are 3 columns of a hieroglyphic inscription on the back of the ostrakon, written in black ink. The columns are
read from right to left, the signs from top to bottom:
"Hathor, Lady of the Sky, Mistress of all gods. Made by the scribe Twt, true of voice, the excellent scribe Ptnw".
Oct12.2007_007-329x252.jpg
UC33199
Bovine-deity
Limestone
Black ink
The bull or a cow is standing and facing right. There is a sun-disk between his/her horns. The disk is drawn frontally. Smudged beneath the body. The drawing is very crude and it is difficult to establish which bovine-deity is represented here.
Height:  11.3 cm
Width:  14.4 cm
Ostraka displaying motives of royal figures
UC33210
Torso of a king
New Kingdom, Ramesside Period, 1295-1069 BC
Limestone
Drawing in black ink, there are traces of red pigment on the crown and in front of the figure
Drawing of the upper part of a king's torso. He faces to the right, his right arm is raised horizontally at the shoulder level, perhaps in the gesture of making an offering. His eye and shoulders are drawn frontally. He wears an elaborate composite crown, consisting of White crown, flanked by twin plumes, sitting on top of the Red crown, encircled by uraei with disks on their foreheads. The whole Double Crown, which could also be seen as Atef Crown, is flanked with horizontal pair of ram's horns. They end in large  uraei, surmounted with sun disks. The king's head is also adorned with a short wig, uraeus on his forehead and a false beard on his chin. He wears a broad collar and a pleated skirt with a wide pleated tie around his waist and over his shoulder.  
The drawing is skillfully executed and could be a student copy of a temple relief or a craftsman's draft for a temple relief.
Height: 13.6 cm
Width: 9 cm
UC33258
Queen Ahmose-Nefertari
Possibly from Deir el-Medina
19th dynasty, 1295-1186 BC
Limestone
Black ink with traces of the preliminary sketch in red
Upper part of a figure of Queen Ahmose-Nefertari facing left. She wears a long tripartite wig and the Vulture headdress.
Dating of the ostrakon takes into consideration the fact that Queen Ahmose-Nefertari was represented as wearing the "Vulture" headdress after she was deified in the Ramesside Period.
Height: 11.8 cm
Width: 13.5 cm
UC33260
King making offering to Min-Amun
Possibly from Deir el-Medina or Koptos
19th dynasty of later date - possibly Ptolemaic
Limestone
Red pigment
Drawing of a king making an offering of two pots to Min-Amun. The king wears the red crown of Lower Egypt and a short skirt with pleats and a central panel.
Min-Amun stands on the right on a podium with a sloping front. He is represented in mummiform. His figure is faint, while the figure of the king and the podium underneath Min-Amun's feet are coloured in. Between the two figures there is an offering table with a cup and possibly two bull's heads on it.
There are two vertical columns of hieroglyphic inscriptions
at the top, reading Min-Amun, Mn. The horizontal line at
the bottom reads "htp-di-nsw Mn-Imn", meaning "The
offering which the king gives to Min-Amun".  
The style of the drawing shows signs of Ptolemaic style.
It could originate from Koptos, where the local fertility god Min was worshipped and where Flinders Petrie excavated the temple of Min.
Height: 18.7 cm
Width: 16.8 cm
UC33219
Head of a king
New Kingdom, Ramesside Period, 1295-1069 BC
Limestone
Drawing in black ink with the preliminary sketch in red.
Drawing of a left-ward facing profile of a head of a pharaoh. The eye and shoulders are drawn frontally. The lower part of the crown is visible, also traces of a wide collar.
Height: 8.1 cm
Length: 10.6 cm
April292008_063-310x419.jpg
UC33204
Pharaoh smiting a captive
New Kingdom, Ramesside Period, 1295-1069 BC
Limestone
Black ink
Drawing of a Pharaoh smiting a fleeing captive.
Both figures face toward the right. The king holds a club in his right hand. He holds his captive's throat with his left hand. The king wears a wig, uraeus and a long pleated skirt. There are traces of a canopy over the figure of the king.
Height: 13 cm
Width: 11 cm
UC33208
Summary drawings
19th dynasty, 1295-1186 BC
Potsherd
Drawings in black ink on both sides of the ostrakon of stick-like figures
Concave side: three registers of figures. Top register: a seated god or king in front of an offering table. A royal figure stands on the right side of the table, holding out an offering in his right hand and an 'nh-sign in his left. Smaller figures, mainly obliterated, follow behind him.
Middle register: two seated figures with five standing figures in front of them. Each one stands in a different pose, two figures on the right hold bows.
Bottom register: four men standing in different poses, the two on the right are holding bows.
Convex side: two registers of figures but barely recognisable. Top register: male figure in a short kilt walking toward the right. Little trace of the other figures.
Height: 14 cm
Width: 10.5 cm
William Peck (Peck,1985,16) suggests this is a part of the process by which the artist planned the layout of a large wall decoration.
This short-hand notation seems suitable for this step in the development of a composition, and as such gives valuable insight into the working processes of the ancient artist.
July302007_029-288x216.jpg
Ostraka displaying motives of men
UC33211
Head of a man
New Kingdom, 1550-1069 BC
Limestone
An informal drawing in black ink of a man in profile with long wavy hair and stubble. In contrast to these he has got a lotus flower attached to his forehead and an incense cone
atop his head, both marking special occasion.
A pattern of a knot or another element of clothing is drawn
in red across his temple.  I tried to link the Egyptian word
for knot to a name from Deir el-Medina, but failed. It could have been connected to a nickname, in which case it would be even more difficult to establish the link. Or indeed, it can be completely disconnected and the red drawing is just a doodle.
The stubble has been traditionally interpreted in the
Egyptological literature as a sign of mourning. But here it
could be a sign of realism or of a caricature, perhaps of a
man who had one party too many.
Height: 10.8 cm
Width: 7.3 cm
UC15947
Head of a noble
20th dynasty? (1186-1069 BC)
From Thebes. Left behind by students of a school of
ancient artists in Ramesseum's mud brick magazines.
Marked "Petrie 2" on its label.
Potsherd
Black ink
Head and a shoulder of a noble drawn in profile facing left. He wears a short wig brought behind his ears. He has got a short square beard. His eye is drawn frontally.
The line of his nose is similar to profiles on portraits of
the Ramesside kings.
This is probably a trial piece for paintings in royal tombs
or tombs of private individuals from the Theban  necropolis.
Height:  8.8 cm
Width:  7.6 cm
Oct122.2007_032-270x302.jpg
Oct12.2007_018-276x302.jpg
UC33244
Head of a man
New Kingdom, 1550-1350 BC
Limestone
Black ink and red pigment
Leftward-facing profile of a balding male's head. He wears a collar with lines radiating from his neck. His facial features are no longer visible. It is possible that this is a trial piece for a painting in a Theban tomb, representing a member of a family or a deceased person. The areas around the eye and the mouth could have been erased as the red wash used for the face and the top of the head seems to be missing there.
Height: 10.3 cm
Width: 9.5 cm
UC33238
Kneeling man
New Kingdom, 1550-1350 BC
Potsherd
Black ink
Drawing of a headless kneeling man facing to the left. He kneels on his left leg and sits on the heel of his foot. His right leg is drawn up towards his body. He faces an offering table bearing four circular loaves of bread and a lotus flower. The man wears a wide-sleeved garment. His arms are raised in adoration. There could have been a figure of a deity behind the offering table, the remaining
line could be the god's leg. The base line is indicated.
Marked in black ink "o" below the base line.
This type of scene frequently appears on Deir el-Medina votive stelae and in the tomb decoration. If the line of the leg are remains of a mummiform god, both Osiris and Ptah could have stood behind the offering table.
Height:  11.3 cm
Width:  13 cm
UC33238-371x315.jpg
UC33237
Standing man
New Kingdom, 1550-1350 BC
Potsherd
Black ink
Drawing of a standing figure of a headless man facing
right. He wears a wraparound short kilt. His left leg is
drawn advanced, his right arm is held across his chest in
an upright position, his left arm is down holding a long
object, possibly a bouquet as an offering. This ostrakon
might be a trial piece for a painting in an offering scene
on a tomb wall.  
Treated at the Institute of Archaeology.
Height:  12.7 cm
Width:  11.1 cm
UC33239
Seated man before an offering table
New Kingdom, 1550-1350 BC
Possibly from Abydos?
Limestone
Black ink
Drawing of a seated man in front of an offering table. He
sits on a low-backed, block throne and faces right. The
small table before him is laden with food offerings: conical
and round loaves of bread and birds. Behind the seated
man stands another figure. Above the figures there is an
wd3t-eye, probably one of a pair, as the surface of the
whole right top corner is flaked off. Beneath the base line
of the drawing there are traces of another unidentified
drawing.
The drawing represents a typical funerary offering scene
with the deceased seated and his relative in attendance.
Perhaps this is a miniature stela, that could have come
from a workmen's tomb at Deir el-Medina.
Height:  7.2 cm
Width:  6 cm
UC227a-260x336.jpg
UC2227
Man carrying bundles
20th dynasty, 1186-1069 BC
Found at Thebes in the brick chamber north of the pylon of Tuthmosis IV
Potsherd
Black ink
Drawing of a man, possibly a peasant, carrying a bundle in
his right hand at his side and another one on a long stick
held over his shoulder with his left hand. He walks towards the right, his left leg is advanced. His head is drawn in profile. His hair is straight. He wears a short skirt tied around his waist and a short-sleeved top.
Height:  21.3 cm
Width:  18.5 cm
UC33214 front
Two men walking
New Kingdom, 1550-1350 BC
Limestone
Black ink, traces of red pigment on upper arm of the man on the right and in the bottom right corner of the ostrakon
Drawing on a squared-off piece of a limestone of two men walking facing right, holding staffs in their left hands. Both
wear short pleated skirts.
UC33214 back
One line of a vertical cursive inscription
The 1st sign reads ht, the 2nd and the 5th are probably the same hieroglyph representing the male figure. The 3rd sign is damaged, the 4th is not decipherable. The last sign is the sun-disk. The inscription can be interpreted as a name, the possible readings could be Ra-khet or Khet-su.
Height:  6 cm
Width:  7.3 cm
UC33241
Face of a man
Potsherd
Black ink
Trial piece with various figures. From top left to right:
1. seated figure of a child with sidelock, facing right, with left hand held forward and right hand at its side.
2. face of a man with a square beard and large ears. The face is drawn frontally
3. outline of an oracular bust facing toward right
Bottom left to right:
4. kneeling figure wearing a heavy wig, and facing right
5. ibis facing right, and before it two parallel lines
Height: 8.1 cm
Width: 10.2 cm
April292008_019-307x276.jpg
Nov_27_2007_061-347x283.jpg
UC33202
Man and bull
New Kingdom, 1550-1350 BC
Limestone
Red and black pigment
Drawing of a pied bull, whose head is missing, walking to the right, followed by a herdsman with a feather on his head. The man, who is disproportionately small, holds a stick in his right hand and a piece of rope over the left arm. He wears a short kilt. The base line is indicated.
Traces of red pigment from the preliminary sketch, also there is red pigment on bull's patches.
The surface of the ostrakon is very fragile and fragmentary. It has been treated in the Institute of Archaeology.
Height:  8.8 cm
Width:  9.4 cm
These drawings seem to be practice work of an apprentice who was employed in the tomb or temple wall decorating. They all would have been motifs familiar to the ancient Egyptian artist. The seated figure of a child, was used as determinative in "be young" and "child" [Gardiner's A17]. The face of a man was used as ideogram of Hr "face" [Gardiner's D2]. The kneeling figure is similar in posture to the hieroglyphic sign of a noble squatting with a flagellum, used as determinative for revered persons [Gardiner's A52]. The sacred ibis was used as determinative in hb "ibis" and as determinative in Dhwty "Thoth" [Gardiner's G26].
Ostraka displaying motives of women and children
UC15946
Girl with a monkey
Ramesside Period, 1292-1069 BC
Potsherd
From the Ramesseum
Drawing of a girl in profile from her shoulder up. She wears a wig, 2 lotuses and an incense cone on her head. A monkey faces the girl and reaches up to her nose with its paw.
It has been suggested the monkey was added at a later
stage in a clumsier style to turn the drawing from an art
school into a joke by a fellow student (Janssen,1989,23-24). Stephen Quirke suggested the
ostrakon could have served as a caricature of the Opening
of the Mouth ritual (Trope,2005,151).
The ostrakon was conserved at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London.
Height: 9.4 cm
Length: 8.4 cm
UC33223
Standing girl
Ramesside period, 1295-1069 BC
Limestone
Black ink
Drawing of a standing girl facing right. She wears a sidelock of youth and a diaphanous gown. Her legs and
body are well rounded. Her pubic triangle is indicated. Her
left hand is raised to her forehead, and holds a cup in her
right hand.
Height:  12.4 cm
Width:  10.8 cm
UC33217
Head and shoulders of a child
New Kingdom, 1550-1350 BC
Limestone
Black and red ink
Head and shoulders of a female child, with her fingers
held to her mouth. She wears a braided sidelock of youth with a hair-ring keeping it in order, streamers down the back of her head, and a large round ear-stud decorated with a cross. Lines on her upper arm may indicate a pleated loose piece of garment.
The drawing is of a noble or royal child. The ear-studs were a fashion introduced during Amarna Period. The
drawing is carefully executed (Page,1983,35).
Height: 3.2 cm
Width: 5 cm
Ostraka displaying motives of birds
UC33227
Pintail duck
19th dynasty?
Marked from Deir el-Bahari on the back
Limestone
Drawing of a pintail duck in flight facing right. The body and wings are drawn in outline, the head is filled in with black ink.
Pintail ducks were the most common kind of duck in ancient Egypt. They were very frequently depicted on temple and tomb walls. When depicted in flight they are also a hieroglyphic sign representing the ideogram "pa" meaning "to fly". The drawing could be a trial piece of a hieroglyph, but it can also be a trial piece for a larger scene.  
Height:  10 cm
Width:  5.6 cm
UC33216
Head of an owl
New Kingdom, 1550-1350 BC
Potsherd
Black ink
Frontal drawing of a head of an owl, which most probably represents an artist's study of a hieroglyphic sign "m". There are several more drawings representing hieroglyphs - a loaf of bread at the left top corner representing phonetic "t", the back of a viper representing "f" and a
part of a feather representing "sw".
Height:  5.3 cm
Width:  5.7 cm
UC33207
Goose
New Kingdom, 1550-1350 BC
Limestone
Red pigment
Outline sketch of a goose facing right. Its neck is extended and its head is bent to the ground as if pecking the ground. The base line is indicated.
The goose was frequently depicted on temple and tomb walls. It is also a hieroglyphic sign for semi-phonetic "gb" and determinative for "gb"-goose. This could have been a preliminary sketch as a draft for an agricultural scene.  
Height:  10.1 cm
Width:  12.8 cm
UC33230
Curlew ?
New Kingdom, 1550-1350 BC
Potsherd
Black pigment
Drawing of a standing bird, facing right. It has a long
narrow beak, large round eye and thin legs. The feathers
are marked with streaks. This sketch has been tentatively identified by Anthea Page as a Senegal stone curlew, a modern resident of both the Nile Delta and Upper Egypt. However, this species of wading bird is not known elsewhere in ancient Egyptian iconography (see, for
example, P.F. Houlihan, The Birds of Ancient Egypt [Cairo, 1988]). On the other hand, W.H. Peck has suggested that this figure may depict a quail chick, which does seem a far more plausible identification. If so, this ostrakon would then most likely be a practice piece of a standard hieroglyphic sign.
Height:  13.9 cm
Length:  13.7 cm
Nov_27_2007_012-307x342.jpg
Nov_27_2007_032-316x335.jpg
The Battlefield Palette
British Museum, London, EA 20791
Perhaps from Abydos
Late Predynastic period, around 3150 BC
Length: 28 cm
Width: 20 cm
P3057617-243x278.jpg
UC33222
Vulture
Possibly Ramesside Period, 1295-1069 BC
Limestone
Black pigment
Drawing of a large vulture facing right, with its neck out
stretched, head down, and with its wings slightly spread.
The bird appears to be grasping prey in its talons and beak. The outline of the bird is represented in black ink;
the prey is filled in with reddish-brown wash, perhaps to
imitate blood. This detail is quite extraordinary. Large
vultures are only rarely portrayed in Egyptian art feeding
(see, for example, P.F. Houlihan, The Birds of Ancient
Egypt [Cairo, 1988]). The only other instance of it, which
immediately comes to mind, is on the famous Late
Predynastic (Naqada III) "Battlefield Palette," now in the
British Museum, London pictured on the left). It is,
therefore, tempting to see this as a work of spontaneity,
executed by a draughtsman who had witnessed this activity. The bird can be identified as either the Griffin
Vulture or the more powerful Lappet-faced Vulture. In
ancient Egypt, vultures were common as hieroglyphic signs:
determinative for nrt (vulture), and a phonetic value for
Mwt. A large vulture also represented the goddess Nekhbet of El-Kab.
Height:  9.8 cm
Length:  11.8 cm
Oct12.2007_074-288x216.jpg
Ostraka displaying motives of mammals
UC33200
Fighting bulls
New Kingdom, 1550-1350 BC
Limestone
Black pigment
Drawing of two bulls facing each other. Their heads are down and their horns are interlocked. The ground is indicated by a line.
Above the bull on the right side, there is a man facing left, striding out, his right arm raised. He wears a short kilt. His head is missing.
Height:  13.1 cm
Width:  16 cm
UC33209
Leaping bull and a duck
Late 18th dynasty, Amarna Period
Potsherd
Black ink
Lively drawing of a young bull leaping towards the right. A pintail duck is flying above, also facing to the right.
Similar motives were found at palaces at Amarna and at Malqata.  
Height:  6.1 cm
Width:  12 cm
UC33206
Head of a donkey and Amun
New Kingdom, 1550-1350 BC
Potsherd
Black ink
A drawing of a donkey's head facing left. One pair of ears is long and pointed, then lower at the back of the head there is another ear added. Below the donkey's head there are several more motives: two wide horizontal lines joined together by a herringbone design, upper part of a figure of the god Amun with a long beard and wearing the crown with double plumes and holding a w3s-sceptre. In front of the donkey there is a fragment of a possible bowl, again with a herringbone design.
The herringbone design was used to show the veining seen in travertine (Egyptian alabaster).
William Peck suggests the drawing to be that of a horned animal with the ear correctly placed at the back of the head. The zigzag line at the top of the head might indicate horn sockets but the horns are badly resolved. It could be a head of bubalis (an antelope). Donkeys' muzzles are usually depicted with their characteristic thickness (Peck,1985,16). The identification is supported by a parallel from the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford: Head of bubalis (antelope)  No. 1938.913, where the head is executed in a strikingly similar way but the horns are those of an antelope (image on the right).
Height:  13.5 cm
Width:  13.9 cm
Photograph by Su Bayfield
UC26937
Galloping horse
New Kingdom, dynasty 18th until dynasty 19th,
1550-1186 BC
Potsherd
Red and black pigment
Figure of a galloping horse, facing left. The horse is painted with red pigment. The legs of the animal are missing. Behind the horse there is a drawing in black of part of a chariot and reins that lead the horse.
Height:  10.7 cm
Width:  16.5 cm
UC33215
Lion
Possibly Ramesside Period
Limestone
Red and black pigment
Verso: drawing of a lion facing right, waiting to strike. He crouches on his front legs with his head down.
A ground line is indicated. Above the lion's body is the figure of a man with his leg advanced and his arms raised as if in a hunting position.
W.H. Pecks suggests that rather than the lion crouched to pounce, this lion seems to be in the act of expiring. The line from his mouth might be an indication of the tongue extended in death.
Recto: drawing of a lion striding out towards right, with his head up and his mouth open.
There is some evidence that lions were tamed in ancient Egypt. New Kingdom pharaohs are often shown in the company of a docile lion. They are portrayed lying beside the throne or running along the royal horses and chariots. These scenes might bear symbolic significance and emphasise the strength of the king, but the evidence shows lions were serviceable creatures to the ancient Egyptians.
During the New Kingdom the Theban tomb walls were decorated with exotic and strange animals and the artisans from Deir el-Medina shared the appreciation of this taste for unusual and reflected it in skillful sketches, the two examples of which we can see here.
Height:  16.1 cm
Width:  12.3 cm
Nov_27_2007_016-247x300.jpg
Ostraka displaying motives of beetles and insects
UC35811
Scarab beetle and hieroglyphs
New Kingdom, 1550-1350 BC
Limestone
Black ink
Drawing of the top side of a scarab beetle (Scarabeus sacer) with its body, legs and head competently drawn. A vertical column of hieroglyphs runs down the right side of the ostrakon.
The inscription reads: (ntr) nfr nb t3wy nb ir ht = Good (god), lord of the two lands, lord who makes everything
Only the nefer sign is drawn and that not enough space is left for the ntr sign to be added in the inscription, but it is assumed that the sign should have been present as it would form a common epithet of kings - ntr nfr = good god (Page,1983,52).
The brackets are present to indicate the addition to the
translation.
Height:  7.1 cm
Width:  5.3 cm
UC33231
Wasp or a bee and a grasshopper
New Kingdom, 1550-1350 BC
Limestone
Red pigment
Verso: drawing in red pigment of a wasp or a bee on the left and a grasshopper on the right. The left image is drawn in greater detail. The body is striped, there are four legs with feet, long antennae, and a pair of wings. The image of the grasshopper is fainter and more schematically drawn. Only the body and the long bent leg are depicted.
Recto: a drawing of another grasshopper in red pigment. Again schematically drawn with antennae, long bent leg and the long closed wings. Although there is no convincing evidence that the ancient Egyptians ate grasshoppers, a custom practiced by many other cultures, it is not excluded that they might have been regarded as a food item (Houlihan,1996,193).
Height:  16.4 cm
Width:  13.1 cm
February19_042-346x253.jpg
Ostraka displaying motives of reptiles
UC33232
Crocodile
New Kingdom, dynasty 18th until dynasty 19th,
1550-1186 BC
Potsherd
Black pigment
Drawing of a tail and back leg of a crocodile. The artist
tried to express some of the characteristics of the
crocodile, such as the dorsal plates and the back foot.
The drawing could either be part of a representation of
the god Sobek who manifested himself either as a human
with a crocodile head or completely in animal form, or it
may have been a draft intended to be used in the decoration of a tomb wall, as the crocodile is sometimes
depicted in such scenes as the deceased hunting in the
marshes.
Treated at the Institute of Archaeology.
Height: 7.2 cm
Length: 7.9 cm
Ostraka displaying various shapes
UC33252
Rectangles of various shapes
New Kingdom, 1550-1350 BC
Limestone
Black ink
Drawings on both sides. Recto: traces of rectangular wall, basket-shape with zigzag line near the top, standing man facing right, his left arm is stretched out and his right arm is bent. He wears a short wig and a wrap-over garment. There are traces of butcher's block on the right. Below the block there are faint traces of possibly a seated person.
Anthea Page (Page, 1983, p. 56) suggests that all the shapes appear in hieroglyphic writing and that they could have been student's exercise: ideogram or determinative in inb "wall" [Gardiner O36], wicker basket with a handle, for unknown reason phonetic k [Gardiner V31], butcher's block is semi-ideogram in hr "under" [Gardiner T28], and a man of rank seated on a chair is a determinative for a revered person [Gardiner A50 or 51].
Anthea Page suggests that the bottom rectangle may represent the piece of cloth - ideogram or determinative in si3t "piece of cloth with fringe" [Gardiner S32]. The sandal was used as an ideogram or determinative in tbt "sandal"
[Gardiner S32]. Page also suggests the star to be ideogram or determinative in sb3 "star" [Gardiner N14].
Jac Janssen (Jansse,2008,89) suggests a different explanation for ostraka with pictures of garments. He suggests they functioned as laundry lists, made by illiterate housewives.
Janssen points out that if the rectangle with the fringes represented the sign S32, then the other two rectangles could be explained as signs N37, "garden pool". He argues that the presence of sandals rather suggests items of dress.
Height: 10.2 cm
Length: 11.5 cm
In my opinion, Jac. Janssen's theory could be supported by the star appearing on the right below the sandal. There are various marks on ostraka and pottery from Deir el-Medina, that could represent house marks or ownership
marks. Although the marks varied in shapes, this explanation could help solving the mystery of the sign in one of the workmen's huts on the top of the cliffs.
April292008_078-400x295.jpg
Sources:
1. Museum's web site at www.petrie.ucl.ac.uk
2. Page, Anthea: Ancient Egyptian figured ostraca : in the Petrie collection
Warminster : Aris & Phillips, 1983.
3. Shaw, Ian, Nicholson, Paul: British Museum dictionary of ancient Egypt
London: British Museum Press, 1995.
4. Brunner, Emma : Egyptian artists' sketches : figured ostraka from the Gayer-Anderson collection in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
5. Janssen, Rosalind and Janssen, Jac. J.: Egyptian household animals
Aylesbury : Shire Publications, 1989.
6. Wilkinson, R. H. : The complete gods and goddesses of Ancient Egypt.
London : Thames & Hudson, 2003.
7. Calverley, A.: The temple of King Sethos I at Abydos, vol. IV. Chicago, 1958, pl. 18
8. Janssen, Jac. J.: Daily dress at Deir el-Medina : words for clothing
London : Golden House Publications, 2008.
9. Peck, W. H. : Review of Ancient Egyptian figured ostraca in the Petrie Collection by Anthea Page IN: The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 71, Reviews Supplement (1985), pp. 14-16
10. Gardiner, Alan: Egyptian grammar : being an introduction to the study of hieroglyphs
Oxford : Griffith Institute, 1957.
11. Houlihan, Patrick F. and Goodman, Steven M.: The birds of ancient Egypt (Natural history of ancient Egypt)
Warminster : Aris & Phillips Ltd., 1986.
12. Trope, Betsy Teasley: Excavating Egypt : Great discoveries from the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, University College London
Atlanta : Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University, 2005
13. Houlihan, Patrick F.: The animal world of the pharaohs
London : Thames and Hudson, 1996.
14. My own study and observation of the ostraka listed
Hieratic ostraka at the Petrie Museum
The Petrie Museum houses a collection of nearly 50 hieratic ostraka, collected by Flinders Petrie. Most of the ostraka come from Thebes, though the exact place and dates of acquisition still remain to be established. Although the written passages are mostly short, their contents indicate, that the majority of Petrie hieratic ostraka did originate in the Theban area - either
in Deir el-Medina itself or in places where the Deir el-Medina workforce were active, e.g. the Valley of the Kings. Majority of hieratic ostraka are small pieces of limestone, with black and red writing in hieratic script. Smaller proportion of the ostraka are pottery sherds. The contrast for writing in red is less clear, but the background is still effective for writing in black.
The range of content divides the ostraka into several categories:
  • documentary (donkey hire and return, lists of
    objects, records of business deals)

  • teaching (word lists)

  • legal (donkey hire dispute)

  • literary (tales, moralizing compositions)

  • religious (plea to Amun for help)

  • letters (requests)

  • incantations (spells)

UC19614
Hieratic ostrakon
From Deir el-Medina
Limestone
Dynasty 20, 1186-1069 BC
Length: 23 cm
Width: 16 cm
Charity after a divorce
The workman Hesysunebef divorced his wife Hel in year 2 of Setnakhte (1185-1182 BC). For three following years, the author of the text below supported Hel with a small monthly ration of grain. The quantity, roughly equivalent to 19 litres, would not be enough to live on, but he did also buy a sash ( a piece of clothing), that used to belong to her, for six times its value.
The ostrakon throws light on how a divorced woman might survive on the charity of others.
February19_016-425x314.jpg
Translation:
Year 2, third month of summer, day 24, of King Weser-Khay-Re-Setep-en-Re (Sethnakhte), l.p.h.: (day) Hesy-su-neb-ef divorced the lady Hel. I spent three years giving to her an oipe of emmer every single month, making 9 sacks. And she gave me a sash, saying, "Offer it at the riverbank (the market-place); it will be bought from me for an oipe of emmer". I offered it, but people rejected it, saying, "It is bad!" And I told her exactly that, saying, "It has been rejected". Then she gave it to me, and I had one sack of emmer delivered to her via Khay son of Sa-Wadjyt.
What was given to her via Nebu-em-weskhet (fem.) : 1 oipe.
What was given to her via Ta-a'ot-merut, her daughter: 1 oipe.
Total, 1 1/2 sacks for the sash.

(McDowell, A.G.: Village life in ancient Egypt : laundry lists and love songs, p. 43-44)
The lives of Hesysunebef and Hel are well documented. He began his life as a slave, but was adopted by his master and
became a member of the crew of workmen. Eventually he attained the rank of deputy. He named his son and his daughter after his adoptive parents, and dedicated a stela to his father. His wife Hel is known to us from Papyrus Salt 124. She lived with Pendua before she married Hesysunebef. She deceived both husbands with the notorious Paneb. It could have been the reason for the divorce from Hesysunebef, especially since Paneb had also threatened to kill Hesysunebef's father (McDowell,1999,43).

To view a stela of Hesysunebef now in the Manchester Museum, click here.
UC39608
From Deir el-Medina
Hieratic ostrakon
Pottery
Supply of yarn for lamp wicks.
Translation : Year 29, month 2 of spring, day 9; on this day, distribution of the linen fibre to the crew to make into  lamp(wick)s; head of distribution[...] on this day: the three leaders, 24 rings each total: 81the forty men, 9 ½ rings each, total 380 (but) Khons 26, total: 74 for the linen store, 31 rings to be taken out on the (account of) the right side for filling the scales 9 ½ (= for measuring each 9 ½?) 225 rings note of what fell to ground 21 rings Sum total: 516 rings[..] year 30,  month 1 of flood, day 25; this day handing over the lamps beside the Amenemipet temple
(Černý/Gardiner 1957: 11, pl. 35.4)
Ostrakon Petrie 5
UC39606
Limestone
Hieratic ostrakon
Prescription of a scorpion-charmer   
Living in an environment teeming with snakes and scorpions, ancient Egyptians made efforts to develop remedies to combat the effects of their venom. This ostrakon contents a short letter from Amen-mose to a priest of the Ramesseum. He asks the priest for the ingredients of a remedy for a sick man. Amen-mose is a scorpion-charmer. The substances required could have been for a magical cure or they could have been used in combination of magic in his work.                           
Translation :
recto : The scorpion charmer Amen-mose and the temple scribe, prophet Piay of the mansion of King Weser-maat-Re Setep-en-Re, l.p.h. (the Ramesseum) in the House of Amen (on) the West of Thebes.
To the effect that: the prophet is ill. When my letter reaches [you, you] will send him one grain, one jar of syrup, one festival date-juice(?).

Translation in McDowell, p. 54-55.
Length: 9.1 cm, width 12.5 cm
Ostrakon Petrie 3
UC39607
Donkey hire and return
Hieratic ostrakon. Complete.
Translation : II prt 24. Donkey was given to policeman Imn-hcw for its b3kw. Coming (back) with it on IV prt 15. He brought 1 goat, that is (ir.n) 3 deben. Verso: One condemned (h3d) him (to) 20 [deben] copper. By the scribe of the Tomb Hori
(Janssen: Donkeys at Deir el-Medina, p. 57)
UC39630
Ramesside period, 1295-1069 BC
From Deir el-Medina
Limestone
Hieratic ostrakon inscribed in ink with a list of the gifts that women brought to a feast. On one face there are three columns of 13, 15 and 11 lines, separated by red lines into 15 unequal compartments, each with a personal name followed in by quantities.
Lenght: 19 cm
Width: 20 cm.
UC39648
From Deir el-Medina
Limestone
Hieratic ostrakon noting distribution of supplies.
Černý/Gardiner 1957: 6, pl. 19.1.
Ostrakon Petrie 50
I would like to express my thanks to the Petrie Museum and its staff, whose time and help has been essential. The museum
curator Stephen Quirke kindly gave me permission to publish the ostraka images on my web site, Tracey Golding and Ivor Pridden have been generous with their time and assistance.
© Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, UCL
The text and photography Lenka Peacock
Sources:
1. Museum's own labels
2. Museum's web site
3. Janssen, Jac. J.: Donkeys at Deir el-Medina
Leiden : Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, 2005.
4. McDowell, A.G.: Village life in ancient Egypt : laundry lists and love songs
Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1999.
5. Clayton, Peter A.: Chronicles of the Pharaohs : the reign-by-reign record of the rulers and dynasties of ancient Egypt
London : Thames & Hudson, 1994.