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Teaching of Khety - the 'Satire of Trades'

This composition contrasts the hardships of manual professions with the living standard of the writing man. It takes the literary form of a teaching from a father to his son, but effectively presents a treatise on class and labour in Ancient Egypt. The Egyptian title (or incipit) is the Teaching made by the man of Tjaru (?) called Duau Khety for his son called Pepy': it is not known whether these are historical persons or fictitious characters (debate on Khety). The severity of the contrast between literate and manual lives has earned the composition the Egyptological name 'Satire of Trades', although the word 'satire' may not be appropriate for its stark realism.

The composition is in the Middle Egyptian phase of the Egyptian language, and probably dates to the Middle Kingdom, perhaps specifically to early Dynasty 12, about 1950-1900 BC. A date earlier than the late Middle Kingdom may be indicated by the absence of a profession documented in late Middle Kingdom inscriptions, the faience-worker (THnty), though faience is a product attested already in the predynastic periods.

All surviving copies date to the New Kingdom, about 1550-1070 BC.


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