Thursday, November 24, 2011

More on family in the Elephantine Papyri

FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS IN THE ELEPHANTINE PAPYRI get more attention from the Jerusalem Post Magazine:
His/Her Story: A mixed marriage in ancient Egypt

11/24/2011 13:38 By RENÉE LEVINE MELAMMED

The discovery of documents from Elephantine revealed two sets of family archives that provide insight into Jewish life in this community.

One archive belongs to Mibtahiah, probably the first Jewish woman whose life is documented (476-416 BCE; see column “A landed woman,” April 1). The second archive belongs to Annania Ben- Azaria, an attendant in the temple who was responsible for its upkeep.

Annania did not marry a Jewish woman, but rather an Egyptian handmaiden named Tamat. Intermarriages were not unusual in this society; the Egyptian spouse often assimilated into the Jewish community. (Mibtahiah’s second husband adopted a Hebrew name.) At any rate, Tamat, the daughter of Patu, belonged to Meshullam Ben-Zachor, a wealthy Jew.


This family had complicated dealings. To begin with, the master maintained control over his maidservant and her daughter until his death, freeing them only after he was no longer present. The handmaiden, an Egyptian working for a Jew, married a wealthy Jew who was employed in the temple built by the Jews of Elephantine, where they worshiped the Hebrew god Yahu alongside two female deities. Her union with him became legal once she produced a son, although her daughter is more prominent in the archive. This daughter also married a Jew and entered the union with a more impressive dowry than her mother had, for after all, she had a Jewish father and had inherited a Jewish adopted brother who was generous toward her. By the time her parents died, Tamat’s daughter had received or inherited substantial property.

The article from April mentioned above was noted in this post, which also links to earlier posts on the Elephantine Papyri.