Ostracon with Demotic Tax Receipt

Ptolemaic, Year 34 of Ptolemy II, 251 BC

The Oriental Institute

The Oriental Institute

Fragments of broken baked clay jars were often used as a convenient and cheap writing surface in ancient Egypt. These fragments are called ostraca (singular ostracon) and in the Ptolemaic Period many ostraca were used to issue tax receipts. Government employees in the Ptolemaic Period were paid with coins. However, the majority of Egyptians were farmers who could conduct their daily affairs without using coins. In order to force the circulation of coins, the kings began to require that certain taxes be paid with coins, rather than with grain or some other commodity. This text is a receipt for such a tax. A payment for the salt tax by a man named Amenothes in the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus is recorded on this ostracon. The salt tax was a capitation tax levied against most adult men and women who were expected to pay the local tax collectors in money. In this case, Amenothes paid his yearly rate at 1/2 silver kite, the Egyptian equivalent of 1 drachma. The price for the tax mentioned here is one drachma, a known coin, but the text does not read "1 drachma." Instead, the scribe refers to the coin as "1/2 (silver) qite," an ancient Egyptian weight measurement.

Translation: Amenothes (son of) Parates, 1/2 (silver) kite (for) the salt tax of year 34. Signed by Thotorches on year 34, month of Pachons, day 14. (Also) signed by Herieus, son of Esminis, 1/2 silver kite.

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  • Title: Ostracon with Demotic Tax Receipt
  • Date Created: Ptolemaic, Year 34 of Ptolemy II, 251 BC
  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Location Created: Luxor, Egypt
  • Physical Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.8 cm
  • Provenance: Gift of Harold Nelson, 1955
  • Type: Ostracon
  • Rights: © Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago
  • External Link: Oriental Institute, OIM E19290, D. 28182
  • Medium: Baked Clay
  • Photograph Registration Number: D. 28182
  • Object Registration Number: OIM E19290


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