Flourished Circa 1104-1075 b.c.e.
Musician of seth
Adopted By Her Husband. During the reign of Ramesses XI, Nanefer, who was also known as Rennefer, was married to a stable master named Nebnefer. Their relationship must have been unusually close. Because they had no children, Nebnefer legally adopted his wife as his daughter. This legal procedure allowed Nanefer to inherit more than the usual one-third of her husband’s estate. In fact, Nebnefer specifically disinherited his brothers and sisters, who would normally have received a share of his estate since he had no children. Nanefer now could receive the entire estate upon her husband’s death.
Adopting Slave Children . Eighteen years passed. During this time Nanefer and Nebnefer purchased a slave girl, who gave birth to three children, a boy and two girls. Nanefer raised the children as if they were her own. At the same time, the children behaved toward her as if she were their mother. When the elder girl, Taamon-niu, reached marriageable age, Nanefer decided that she should marry. Nanefer chose her own brother, Padiu, to become Taamun-niu’s husband. At the same time, Nanefer freed all three of her adopted children from slavery and adopted her brother, all of whom could then inherit her estate upon her death. In the meantime, they supported her in her widowhood.
Unusual Document . All of these circumstances were recorded in an unusual document called The Adoption Papyrus (Papyrus Ashmolean Museum 1945.96). The papyrus, written at one time, summarizes two legal processes that took place eighteen years apart—a husband adopting his wife, and then the wife adopting her brother and the offspring of her slave. The purpose of the two original legal actions must have been to protect Nanefer’s economic position. First, she was able to claim a larger share of her husband’s estate, taking a child’s share rather than one dictated for a wife. Then, after her husband died, she could count on her adopted children to continue to support her from the proceeds of her land and other property. She would therefore have help from trusted managers who were related to her.
The Adoption Papyrus (Papyrus Ashmolean Museum 1945.96), translated by Janet H. Johnson, in Mistress of the House, Mistress of Heaven: Women in Ancient Egypt, edited by Anne K. Capel and Glenn E. Markoe (New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1996), p. 183.
E. Cruz-Uribe, “A New Look at the Adoption Papyrus” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 74 (1988): 220-223.
C. J. Eyre, “The Adoption Papyrus in Social Context,” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 78 (1992): 207-221.