a text also known as Dua-Khety, is generally referred to as the Satire on the Trades. Khety was praised as a famous author. The text represents an early version of a theme later popular in the literature of the Ramessid era: the elevated status of the scribe in respect to other professions. The text is specified as an instruction, and its popularity reflects its use as a teaching tool with an obvious slant at the humorous, satirical depiction of the sorry lot of those who are not scribes. It is perhaps the most copied text, represented in four New Kingdom papyri, two writing boards, and several hundred ostraca (a scholar in 1981 counted 247 ostraca!), but the presumed original is dated in the Middle Kingdom.

The prologue, after identifying the work as an instruction, describes the narrative frame. The author takes his son Pepy from the northeastern town of Tjel to the royal residence, to place him in the school for magistrates among the select children of the officials, and advises him to study hard: “I shall make you love books more than your mother.” There follows a description of the other walks of life, each deprecated in respect to that of a scribe (that is, an accountant): the mason, goldsmith, copper-smith, carpenter, jeweler, barber, reed-cutter for arrows, potter, bricklayer, builder, vintner, field hand, weaver, arrowmaker, messenger, furnace-tender, sandalmaker, washerman, fowler, fisherman, and tenant farmer. Then there is general advice about the boy's future classmates, respect for his mother, honoring father and mother, and wishes for success.

The satirical or humorous aspect of the description of the other professions cannot be denied. The coppersmith at his furnace has fingers like a crocodile's claws and stinks more than fish excrement. The carpenter has to work by lamplight into the night. The barber shaves until night but must be up early to find clients. The bricklayer works outdoors in the wind, ill-dressed for such work. The vintner is weary under his shoulder-yoke. The weaver is shut up inside and is beaten if he stops; he has to bribe the doorkeeper to let him out for a break.

There follow general instructions for proper deportment, for being circumspect, securing understanding, honoring parents, and associating with appropriate persons of one's own station. Frequently an ostracon will have the verses relating to a single profession inscribed. The popularity of the text led to extreme cases of text corruption, and so it has not been always easy to translate.


  • Brunner, Hellmut. Die Lehre des Cheti, Sohnes des Duauf. Ägyptologische Forschungen 13. Glückstadt and Hamburg, 1944.
  • Brunner, Hellmut. Altägyptische Weisheit: Lehren für das Leben. Zürich and Munich, 1988. With introduction and translation.
  • Gugliemi, Waltraud. “Berufssatiren in der Tradition des Cheti.” In Zwischen die Beiden Ewigkeiten: Festschrift Gertrud Tausing, edited by Manfred Bietak et al., pp. 44–72. Vienna, 1994. Discussion in detail of four passages in the Miscellany literature and Papyrus Chester Beatty IV, V, and the later development of the themes of the satire on the professions. With remarks on the concept of satire in general and references to satire from Ben Sira through the Middle Ages.
  • Helck, Wolfgang. Die Lehre des Dwʒ-Htjj. Textzusammenstellung. 2 vols. Kleine Ägyptische Texte. Wiesbaden, 1970. The main current edition of the preserved texts, with commentary and translation.
  • Hoch, James. “The Teaching of Dua-Khety: A New Look at the Satire of the Trades.” Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities Journal 21–22 (1991–1992, issued 1995), 88–100. A major interpretation of the text.
  • Lichtheim, Miriam. Ancient Egyptian Literature: A Book of Readings, vol. 1: The Old and Middle Kingdoms. Berkeley, 1973. Extensive bibliography.
  • Posener, Georges, “L'auteur de la Satire des Métiers.” In Livre du Centenaire de l'IFAO (1880–1980), pp. 55–59. Cairo, 1980.
  • Seibert, Peter. Die Charakteristik. Ägyptologische Abhandlungen, 17. Wiesbaden, 1967.
  • Simpson, William K., ed. The Literature of Ancient Egypt: An Anthology of Stories, Instructions, and Poetry. new ed. New Haven, 1973.
  • Williams, Ronald J. “Scribal Training in Ancient Egypt.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 92 (1972), 214–221.

William Kelly Simpson