ï~~Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 45 (2008) 21-30 SB 6.9025, Cotton, and the Economy of the Small Oasis Roger S. Bagnall New York University Abstract SB 6.9025 is restudied in light of the much larger amount of information now available for cotton cultivation in the oases of the Western Desert of Egypt. The goods to be sent by the writer are shown to be those characteristically produced in the oases and shipped to the Valley, and it is argued that the place of writing is probably the Small Oasis. Of all active papyrologists, Jim Keenan is the one I have known the longest; he entered graduate school at Yale in 1965, the fall of my sophomore year. He has also been one of the most consistently stimulating of friends and colleagues, with an enviable range of reading and a serious interest in how Egypt has changed over the post-classical centuries. I hope that some reflections on the ancient background of one of modern Egypt's most important crops will interest him. More than sixty years ago - in the year of Jim Keenan's birth, in fact - J.G. Winter and H.C. Youtie published an article called "Cotton in Graeco-Roman Egypt."'1 The article presents two private letters of the second century from the Michigan papyrus collection, both of unknown provenance. The editors chose these papyri because both refer to Â~pe6MvXov, cotton. Of these, the second, although of interest in various ways, merely expresses a wish for 20 drachmas' worth of good cotton thread with which the author, Areskousa, can make new garments. Nothing in it helps explain the context in which the author, a woman, was writing.2 Because most surviving private letters on papyrus of 1AJP 65 (1944) 249-258. It is reprinted in Youtie's Scriptiunculae Posteriores, vol. 2 (Bonn 1982) 665-674. 2 P.Mich. inv. 1648; the text is reprinted as SB 6.9026 and included in R.S. Bagnall and R. Cribiore, Women's Letters from Ancient Egypt, 300 BC - AD 800 (Ann Arbor 2006) 356-357, where it is described as "well written in every respect."
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