The Oldest Written Will – Flinders Petrie 1889

This is the very brief history of the Oldest Written Will – the Oldest Written testament.

A 1934 portrait, by Hungarian artist Philip Alexius de László, of Sir Flinders Petrie, who discovered the papyrus bearing the oldest known written will.
A 1934 portrait, by Hungarian artist Philip Alexius de László, of Sir Flinders Petrie, who discovered the papyrus bearing the oldest known written will.

The discovery of the oldest known will was reported in the London Standard on December 26, 1889. The papyrus was discovered in the ancient Egyptian town of Kahun, which is now Al-Fayym, some sixty miles south of Cairo, by Flinders Petrie, a prominent English archaeologist and Egyptologist who is widely considered as the father of modern archaeology. According to the London Standard writer, the revelation “curiously underscores the continuity of legal techniques.”

Prior to Petrie’s discoveries, historians and legal scholars had only studied the existence and evolution of ancient wills through later stages of civilization: discussions of Solon introducing wills to Ancient Greece in the sixth century BCE, Roman law relating to wills appearing in the Twelve Tables of the fifth century BCE, and the Justinian Code in the mid-sixth century of our own era.

Read more