PERF No. 556 - An Early Islamic Papyrus In Greek Bearing The Seal Of ʿAmr Ibn Al-ʿĀṣ, 22 AH / 643 CE

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First Composed: 4th April 2014

Last Modified: 3rd May 2014

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Assalamu ʿalaykum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:






(a) Papyrus PERF 556, (b) the seal of ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ and (c) the transcription.


Safar, 22 AH / 6th January, 643 CE.[1]


It has Greek text and underneath that is the seal of ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ, commander of the Muslim army in Egypt. The place of discovery of this document is probably Herakleopolis.


The translation of the document is given below.


  1. In the name of God! Ambros, Governor, to the pagarch of Herakleopolis.
  2. Hand over to Amir son of Asla four bundles of fodder for two solidi, taking from him
  3. a receipt, and for maintenance of his men one artaba of barley-groats per head. Jot it down
  4. and send this man to a reserved place, and do not trouble this place by (billetting) others (but Amir).
  5. Written on the 13th of the month of Tybi, in the first indiction.
Seal of ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ


[Declaration of A]mer, son of Asla, respecting fodder for two solidi, delivered by the (inhabitants) of Kephale.


The above papyrus represents a letter issued by ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ (‘Ambros’) to an Egyptian provincial official, the pagarch of Herakleopolis. It commands him to send a quantity of food and fodder every month for the use of ʿAmr's forces and their horses. This letter retains the original clay seal. It shows the imprint of an oval seal-stone bearing the image of a bull charging to the left with its head lowered. This is perhaps the best example of the use of a figural seal among early Muslims.[2] Also see the Coptic texts on behalf of ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ.

This papyrus is a part of the Archduke Rainer Collection (usually abbreviated as PERF). It is the earliest Islamic papyri from 22 AH / 643 CE; others from this year are PERF 555, PERF 557, PERF 558 and P. Berol. 15002.


The Austrian National Museum, Vienna.


We are grateful to the Austrian National Museum, Vienna, for providing us a photo of the papyrus.

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[1] A. Grohmann, From The World Of Arabic Papyri, 1952, Al-Maaref Press: Cairo (Egypt), pp. 115-116.

[2] P. Soucek, "Early Islamic Seals: Their Artistic And Cultural Importance" in E. Ehrenberg (Ed.), Leaving No Stones Unturned: Essays On The Ancient Near East And Egypt In Honor Of Donald P. Hansen, 2002, Eisenbrauns (USA), pp. 237-259, esp. pp. 247-248 for the description of seal of ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ.

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