Sales_in_early_Roman_Tebtunis_the_Case_o - Sales in early...

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117 Sales in early Roman Tebtunis: the Case of the grapheion Archive of Kronion * MICAELA LANGELLOTTI I NTRODUCTION In modern societies, sale trends are a clear indicator of market conditions. An increase in sales generally reflects an economically healthy market, which produces a high percentage of buyers; conversely, a decrease in sales might be a sign of economic depression. Three main factors may contribute to a decrease in sales: 1) a drop in population, which results in a reduced number of buyers; 2) economic crisis, whereby people do not have sufficient financial means to buy or make payments; and 3) the unavailability of specific products for sale in the market. Whether sales were a good indicator of economic and social behaviours in ancient societies is a matter of debate. In this paper I look at the case of a particularly well-documented Egyptian village, Tebtunis in the Fayum, in the first half of the first century AD. The aim is to investigate the role and im - portance of formally contracted sales and cessions in the socio-economic life of Tebtunis, and to determine to what extent and how reliably fluctuations in * This paper has been written while in receipt of a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship Award, for which I thank the British Academy. I would also like to thank Dominic Rathbone for his comments.
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118 sales and cessions trends reflected changing market conditions. The best evi - dence is provided by the grapheion (local notarial office) archive of Kronion, a collection of over two hundred documents. During the early Roman period (AD I-II), Tebtunis (modern Umm el-Brei- gat) was a large village of around 50 hectares with a guessestimated population of around 3,000-4,000. 1 After the first excavations carried out in 1899/1900 by Grenfell and Hunt, the site was dug up by German (1902) and Italian teams (1929-36), interspersed by the activity of local sebakhin (1900s-). Since 1988 excavations have been carried out by a joint expedition of the Institut français d’archéologie orientale and the University of Milan. 2 An important element in the socio-economic life of the village was the main temple, dedicated to the crocodile god Soknebtunis (a local form of Sobek). The economy was mainly agricultural, although several contracts leasing private land for livestock graz- ing (AD I-II) attest to the important role pastoralism played within the local community. 3 The grapheion archive was found in the early 1920s during illegal exca- vations. 4 The grapheion of Tebtunis was a government concession operated through a lease; it also served the nearby village of Kerkesoucha Orous, and some documents show its association with the grapheion of Talei and The- ogonis. 5 For almost twenty years, from AD 7 to 26, the grapheion of Tebtunis was managed by a man called Apion; on his death in AD 26, the office was taken up by his son Kronion, who held it for a further thirty years until AD 56. Contracts constitute 64% of the archive, but there are also a fair number of other types of documents, such as registers of various kinds and accounts of expenses.
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  • Summer '14
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