Eight feet long from edge to edge and brushed with beautiful calligraphy, the stretched-out scroll hanging on the walls of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago could easily be mistaken for a poem, or an ornate royal decree. It's neither. It's a prenup.
The 2,480-year-old marital document, written in demotic script—demotic being derived from the hieratic writing system, a kind of shorthand for hieroglyphs—was made to ensure that if the union between the signers didn’t work out, the wife would be adequately provided for. Her compensation would include "1.2 pieces of silver and 36 bags of grain every year for the rest of her life," says Dr. Emily Teeter, an Egyptologist at the Institute.