Although we are now returning to our survey of independent pronouns, the passage that I have chosen still is part of a gripping narrative about ancient Egyptians behaving badly. The first person plural independent pronoun is: inn – normally spelled with a reed leaf, followed by a nw-pot atop two n-waters above three strokes (plural strokes). This word is needed to write “we” or “us” in sentences with specific syntax, like nominal sentences. Examples are exceedingly rare before the New Kingdom, so here is one from the tomb robbery papyri, now preserved in the @BritishMuseum.
The ancient Egyptians, at time obsessed with bureaucratic procedure, took particular interest when the target of theft was objects intended for burial as funerary goods and furniture. In this passage from BM P.10052, “and he gave to us four parts, for the four us (inn - highlighted in blue) also.” (typeset hieroglyphs are overlaid on the papyrus to give a sense of the two writing systems). This excerpt is part of the interrogation of accused thieves, who after removing the gold and silver from a tomb, distribute the stolen property in four shares. British Museum Papyrus 10052 then provides details about the interrogation of the accused, calling of witnesses, and all of the trappings of modern court procedure. The first person plural pronoun is used as a noun indicating the “four of us” (thieves) divide the loot. The tomb robbery texts show the ancient Egyptians strove for fairness in legal cases – a level of order and truth embodied in the goddess Maat, whose feather was weighed against the heart of the deceased in Chapter 125 of the Book of the Dead. A key pronoun here fits within a rich series of events dealing with a heinous crime, but one that required proper standards of evidence and cross-examination. .
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