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Artefact ID430
TM IDTM 23651
Findspot (DEChriM ID)12   (Ismant al-Ḫarāb)
Writing mediumCodex, Tablet
Text contentDocumentary

P.Kellis IV 96; Kellis Agricultural Account Book (KAB).

Wooden codex consisting of eight leaves averaging in size 334 x 107 x 2.7 mm, all cut in the same block of acacia wood. Two pairs of holes have been drilled, a pair each at the head and the tail. The boards of this codex were held together by a length of spun washed line. The hand of the body of the KAB is a small semi-cursive.
The codex contains the most extensive and well-preserved set of accounts for an agricultural entity to survive from the 4th c. and offers a considerable number of references to (Bagnall 1997: 81-82): 

  • religious institutions and offices: the episkopos, bishop, occurs twice; presbyteroi, priests, are attested in several places – sometimes identified only as "Fathers"; one mention of a deacon, diakonos.
  • institutions: the church, ekklesia, appears three times; nothing suggests that it was located anywhere else other than Kellis. If references concern the orthodox church, the Large East Church is the most likely candidate; if they concern a Manichaean church, the small West church would be more plausible.
  • Monastic institutions and individuals: KAB mentions a Topos Mani holding some orchard land as a tenant. That the topos is a monastery is confirmed by the fact that there is a monk (monachos) paying in its place and another one acting as an intermediary.
  • Payments for agape: probably not merely some kind of generalized charitable distribution but offerings intended for actual use in a communal meal.
  • heorte of Pharmouthi, "festival of Pharmouthi": possibly a reference to Easter which fell on Pharmouthi 9 in 364 or Pharmouthi 26 in the next cycle, in 379.
  • ΧΜΓ: the codex is very visibly headed with this distinctively Christian cryptogram with supralinear stroke.
Selection criteriaMention of Christian cult officials/institutions, Mention of Christian individuals/communities, Christian terms/formulas/concepts, Christian onomastics, Christian symbols/gestures/isopsephy
Date from361
Date to379
Dating criteria

Price information, palaeography, archaeology, dossier connection (The carpenters of House 2 / Family of Tithoes).

KAB is dated to either 361/2-363/4 (which would coincide with Tithoes' known period of activity as a carpenter in house 2) or 376/7-378/9. As the texts were not erased and the book reused, it might be that KAB was discarded in House 2 shortly before the kitchen began to fill with sand, but when exactly is unknown (Bagnall 1997: 10 and 14).

Palaeographic parallels include P.Kellis I 72 (mid 4th c.) or P.Kellis I 33 (dated 369).

Absolute/relative dateRelative date
Archaeological context

Found on January 20th 1988 together with another wooden codex containing three orations of Isocrates (P.Kellis III), in the south-east comer of the kitchen of House 2 in Area A of the site.

Accession number

Kellis, excavations Dakleh Oasis Project 1986- no. 31/420-D6-1/A/2/7; Egyptian register of antiquities from Kellis no. 1447;  on display in the Khargeh Museum.


Editio princeps

• Bagnall, Roger S., with contributions from C. A. Hope, R. G. Jenkins, A. J. Mills, John L. Sharpe III, Ursula Thanheiser and Guy Wagner, 1997. The Kellis Agricultural Account Book (P.Kell. IV Gr. 96). Dakhleh Oasis Project: Monograph 7. Oxford: Oxbow books.  

Additional bibliography

• Sharpe III, John Lauwrence. 1992. "The Dakhleh tablets and some codicological considerations." In E. Lalou (ed.), Les tablettes à écrire de l’Antiquité à l’époque moderne. Bibliologia 12. Turnhout, 1992, 127-148.

Valérie Schram, 2021
Suggested citation
Valérie Schram, 2021, "Artefact ID 430", 4CARE database - Fourth-Century Christian Archaeological Record of Egypt,