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Ramose's Occupation

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Vignette from Ramose Book of the Dead
Ramose’s job title and name

In his Book of the Dead, Ramose’s job title is given as either hery sau seshu en neb tawy, which we translate as ‘supervisor of archivists of the Lord of the Two Lands’, or simply as hery sau seshu, ‘supervisor of archivists’. The phrase ‘Lord of the Two Lands’ is a very regular way of referring to the King of Egypt.

Other objects were found in his tomb at Sedment, including a large number of shabti figures. Two of these are in the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum. One of them is uninscribed, but on the other his title is sesh nesu ‘royal scribe’.

From this evidence, it is clear that Ramose worked for the king, i.e. the government, in the scribal part of the administration. Scribes seems to have been the lynchpins of the Egyptian state. They were the people who maintained the accounts books, recorded instructions, compiled lists, etc. They fulfilled the varied role of the secretary, and just like the Home Secretary in the UK government, the position of scribe could be a very powerful one.

It is hard for us, in our very literate age, to imagine the great significance of the ability to read and write in cultures like ancient Egypt. Estimates of the percentage of the population who could read and write vary from 1% to 3%. This meant that the vast majority of ancient Egyptians had to rely on scribes for things that we take for granted, for example to read and write their letters or to label their property.

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