Oldest Last Will and Testament

Possibly the oldest Last Will and Testament known to western historians was discovered in 1890 in Egypt. Oddly, though found in a pyramid excavation, it does not belong to a Pharaoh or other ruler, but to a self described “devoted servant of the superintendent of works” named Ankh-ren. The will of Ankh-ren, also known as Sekhenren depending on translation, is currently dated to 1797 BCE (earlier historians thought it was older, but that date has been revised). It leaves all his goods, including his property in town and in the marshland, to his brother, Uah. Uah is one of the names of Egyptian God Osirus, who we assume Uah was named after: some translations indicate that Ankh-ren’s brother was a priest of Osirus.
Uah’s Will was also found: it indicates that all the goods he received from his brother should be left to his wife, Teta. Ankh-ren and Uah’s Wills were both written on papyrus.
Uah’s Will includes a provision that Teta must refrain from demolishing or knocking down any of the houses inherited from (or possibly built by) his brother. Four thousand years later, this would be known as a “fee entailment that runs with the land,” or simply as a “proviso.” Back then, it was just known as “Uah doesn’t trust Teta.” She was also instructed to give Ankh-ren’s slaves to whichever of her children she chose.

You can read Ankh-rens Will below. Or if your Egyptian hieroglyphs are rusty, just squint at it like me.
oldest-will-1787-bc

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