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The Standard of Living of the Judean Military Colony at Elephantine in Persian Period Egypt

Alexander Schütze


The settlement of Judean military colonists at Elephantine island at the southern border of Egypt is by far the best documented foreign community in this province of the Persian empire. The religious life of this military colony as well as the tension between the Judeans and the priests of the local god Khnum culminating in the destruction of the local temple of Jahu at the end of the 5th century BCE have been in the focus of scholarly discussion for decades. Recent excavations at Elephantine Island and Syene (modern Aswan) indicate that the settlement of foreign colonists there was organized by the Persian administration including the creation of entirely new living quarters. Both the Aramaic papyri as well as the archaeological record provide deeper insights into the daily life and living conditions of these colonists. This paper discusses rations disbursed to military colonists at Elephantine as well as household sizes as proxies for the standard of living of the Judean settlers at Elephantine.

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