Take Note

An exploration of note-taking in Harvard University Collections
< | >
Interactive Exhibition

6. Second-century ostracon

Price list on potsherd
Elephantine, Egypt, (ca.) 200-300

Ostraca were earthenware potsherd fragments commonly used as a writing surface, since they were cheap, plentiful, and --at least in their fragmentary form-- sturdy. Houghton Library has 32 of them from Elephantine and Syene (Aswān) at the First Cataract of the Nile River, comprising accounts, receipts, and poll taxes in the Greek, Coptic and Demotic languages.
This ostracon, not quite two inches square, lists various items, including a warp and a woof, purple cloth, and sums in drachmas and obols, possibly the prices paid for them.
Published as: O.Harv. 9. by Gerald M. Browne, "Ostraca Harvardiana," Harvard studies in classical philology 76 (1972): 245-258.

Greek.
Ostracon.
. MS Ostraca 3152 .
HOLLIS Catalog: 009796922
Keywords: 
ostracon, lists, commercial documents

View
Hi-Res
Image

Comments

Submitted by John Plotz (not verified) on

This amazing piece also makes me think about the clay tablets in the Semitic Museum, which I think are Assyrian: weren't some of those legal or fiscal documents also notes in a sense--reminders of a particular obligation that the tablet recorded?

ryanski1@aol.com's picture
Submitted by ryanski1@aol.com on

"Ostraca were earthenware potsherd fragments commonly used as a writing surface, since they were cheap, plentiful, and --at least in their fragmentary form-- sturdy;" I give a lot of merit to this sentence because in the 2nd century Egyptians needed a place to keep their ideas. The Egyptians, it could be reasoned, cared a lot about the image of their culture and developed a dependable reliable way to record information that was relevant to the value they could attach to the tangibility of these ideas, how they were intended to be perceived and understood.

Brendan Ryan

The Brendan Ryan Company
Houston, Texas

Add Comment