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Legal documents from Lahun

The deed of conveyance of Mery UC 32037

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Dating to about 1818 BC, this document is one of the oldest legal manuscripts preserved from Egypt; earlier examples are copies in hieroglyphs on stone, but this is an original document on papyrus paper.

The first line gives the date, year 37, month 4 of flood, day 29, separate from the 8 lines of core content; these open with the title of the document, imt-pr 'what is in the house' or deed of conveyance. A man called Mery makes the following terms:

  1. he asks for his son Intef to be appointed to his official position in the temple of the dead king Senusret II, as 'controller of the watch' (the person regulating the monthly quota of staff); in return Intef should support him as his 'staff of old age' - a Middle Kingdom (about 2025-1700 BC) technical term for family support, compensating for the lack of pensions in the ancient world.
  2. he cancels the preceding deed of conveyance which he made for Intef's mother.
  3. he grants his estate to the children born to him by a woman called Nebetnennisut - presumably, but not certainly, a second wife.

The document closes with a list of witnesses, partly lost; the title is also written on the other side of the document, in the rectangle that would have been left visible after the document was folded and sealed.

No other sources shed light on the family relations revealed by this document, leaving key questions open:

However, the document does illuminate some other central issues in social relations in Egypt around 1800 BC:


Transliteration (using signs A, i, y, a, w, b, p, f, m, n, r, h, H, x, X, s, S, q, k, g, t, T, d, D) with translation

rnpt-sp 37 Abd 4 Axt sw 29

imt-pr irt.n mty n sA intf sA mry Ddw n.f kbi n

sA.f mry sA intf Ddw n.f iw-snb iw.i Hr rdit pAy.i

mty n sA n sA.i mry sA intf Ddw n.f iw-snb r mdw iAw

xft ntt wi tn.kwi imi dhn.t(w).f m tA At

ir tA imt-pr irt.n.i n tAy.f mwt Xr-HAt sA r.s

ir pAy.i pr nty m spAt Hwt ..-t iw.f n nAy.i n

Xrdw msy n.i in sAt imy-sA n qnbty n w

sbk-m-HAt sAt nbt-nn-nswt Hna ntt nbt im.f


imy-rn.f mtry iry imt-pr tn r-gs.sn

mty n sA sA-.. sA sp sn

[wab nswt?] snwsrt sA snbwbw



imt-pr irt.n

mty n sA intf sA

mry n sA.f

mry sA intf

Ddw n.f iw-snb


Year 37, month 4 of flood, day 29

Deed of conveyance made by the controller of the watch Intef's son Mery called Kebi for

his son Mery's son Intef called Iuseneb. I am giving my (position of)

controller of the watch Mery's son Intef called Iuseneb in exchange for (being) staff of old age,

because I am now grown old. Let him be appointed at once.

As for the deed of conveyance which I made for his mother previously - it is cancelled.

As for my house which is in the district of Hut-..-t, it is for my

children born to me by the daughter of the guard of the district counsellor

Sobekemhat's daughter Nebetnennisut, with all its contents.


Namelist of witnesses in whose presence this deed of conveyance has been written:

controller of the watch Sa-..'s son ditto

Pure-[priest of the king] Senusret's son Senbubu



Deed of conveyance made by

the controller of the watch Intef's son

Mery for his son

Mery's son Intef

called Iuseneb



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