The aim of GESHAEM is to enhance our knowledge of the administration of the main agricultural area of Egypt during the first century of the Greek domination (3rd century BCE), a time of great changes in administration (administrative division of the country, administrative language, etc.) and agricultural processes (increase of cultivated land), thanks to the restart of the study of the papyri in the Jouguet collection, taking into account the detailed examination of the cartonnages. This will be achieved by means of close collaboration between specialized conservationists of ancient objects, researchers working on bilingual papyrus corpora, and researchers specialized in the study of the objects and of history of art.

The study of the cartonnages will be carried out with a dual aim:

  • 1. The first of these will be a stylistic study of their form and their painted decorations. By comparing these with material from other neighbouring necropoleis (Gurob near El-Lahun, Abusir el-Melek near Herakleopolis Magna), it will be possible to establish criteria for dating, other than just the terminus post quem provided by the date of the re-used papyri. Also, identifying the marking characteristics (“hands”) will help to determine how many production centres were working to produce the ornaments of the mummies found in the necropoleis of Ghôran, Magdôla and El Lahun, and whether one production centre might have worked for the people entombed in several necropoleis. This study will therefore lead to a better understanding of the organisation of artisanal funeral workshops in the region of the Fayyum oasis and on its fringes along the Nile Valley (key question 1).

  • 2. The second aim of this study will be to understand how and when craftsmen recovered their primary material in the different villages or in the capital of the region (nome). This study will enable us to evaluate the time that lapsed between the date of the writing on the papyri and the date when they were re-used. This will give an idea of the average duration of the archiving of administrative documents (key question 2).

The papyrological study will deal with three administrative corpora which are coherent and well identified: the monetary fiscal registers and the land surveys, found in the Magdôla necropolis, as well as the surety contracts discovered at Ghôran. A systematic browsing of Jouguet collection, both the Greek and demotic parts, together with the new papyri which will be extracted from the cartonnages will help to complete the corpora. This unedited material will provide new information on how the first Ptolemies organised agricultural production, tax levying and collective village duties in the Fayyum region in the first century of their rule.

  • 3. Firstly, agricultural production in the Fayyum region will be studied by way of taxation arrangements. Just as the Zenon archive preserves letters about the introduction of new grain species, such as Syrian wheat, and experiments in double sowing in the Apollonios domain in the northeast Fayyum, the Jouguet collection registers mention the kinds of harvests gathered in southern Fayyum: wheat, emmer, safflower, flax, clover, barley, peas, etc. The distribution of crops according to land-tenure categories (cleruchic, sacred or royal) will also be studied with respect to other villages. The tax regimes bearing on each sort of crop are a way of evaluating land values at the time (Cuvigny 1985; Monson 2012). As agriculture was at the very base of all ancient economies, this regional study will be significant not only for understanding agricultural administration in early Ptolemaic Egypt (key question 3) but will furnish comparative evidence for use with later periods (late Ptolemaic, and Roman) and with the economic practices of Bronze Age kingdoms of the eastern Mediterranean and of Babylon in the seventh to fifth centuries BCE (Moreno Garcia 2005). A better grasp of how Ptolemaic power was exercised over agricultural policy will facilitate the understanding of similarities and differences between these civilisations.

  • 4. The monetary tax registers will enable us to extend our investigation of the Ptolemaic tax policy and to consider issues about the dissemination of money in the villages (key question 4). Taxpayers could obtain exemptions from some money taxes such as the tax on salt, introduced in the reign of Ptolemy II. The tax registers enable us to see the variations in tax levels over time, and the privileges enjoyed by certain occupational categories. The disappearance in the second century BCE of attestations of salt tax payments may be associated with the monetary reform under Ptolemy IV around 205-204, which is the subject of current discussions (Hazzard/Huston 2015). The unpublished Jouguet collection papyri may provide new sources for documenting this period of transition.

  • 5. Land registration, control of crops and tax collecting also give information about the population. Many demotic lists of taxpayers contain Greek names, often cleruchs, soldiers who had been allotted parcels of land in the Fayyum. Apart from the inevitable prosopographical connections which will be made between persons mentioned in different kinds of document, such a corpus will make it possible to consider the question of Hellenisation in Egypt (key question 5) and how far populations were mixed. These may not be new questions (Uebel 1963; Clarysse/Thompson 2006; Fischer-Bovet 2012), but the nature of the material in the Jouguet Collection, particularly the bilingualism of documents and archives, enable a deeper analysis. Furthermore, in the villages the authorities controlled particular occupations and trades such as making and selling beer, which was undertaken by Egyptians. The surety requirements in relation to brewers, launderers, manufacturers of oil, and so on, allow one to study the networks of responsibility at the village level, for ensuring the remission of money due to the treasury. In the village of Theadelphia, one Hermaiskos, son of Dionysios, designated as a brewer in a surety document, appears in the Greek texts as an oil-seller and perhaps had a kind of grocery store in the village (Préaux 1979, p. 82, n. 2). Thus this double documentation offers two different perspectives on one individual (Clarysse 1988).

  • 6. In sum, the study of these corpora will furnish new information on the involvement of Egyptians in the early Ptolemaic administration (key question 6). For a long time Hellenistic Egypt was seen as a purely Greek kingdom (Préaux 1939) but the participation of Egyptians in administrative tasks undertaken at the village level is very evident in the mass of surviving demotic documentation, which bears witness to the existence of an indigenous scribal tradition in the development of the administration in the 3rd century BCE. Data collected at the village level had to be translated into Greek and passed on to higher administrative levels, as can be traced very precisely in the bilingual Jouguet collection archives. The presence of Greek dockets on the back of demotic documents (sureties, accounts) as well as Greek subscriptions and other registration marks (on receipts or letters) reveal the process of information transmission. The organisation of land registers recording for each farmer the quantity and nature of seeds lent him, the surface area sown, the tax rate and the expected return is evidence of strict control inherent in the already existing Egyptian scribal traditions (Gardiner 1948; Vleeming 1993), which can be traced into the second century BCE (Crawford 1971; Verhoogt 1998) and up to the Roman era (Bagnall 1992; Rowlandson 1996). Investigation of these bilingual texts will shed new light on the role of Egyptians and their scribal traditions in the Ptolemaic administration but also on the continuity and development of administrative and agrarian practices in Egypt.