Persian period Elephantine merits special treatment because it has yielded a rich crop of Aramaic papyri and ostraca. An even larger amount of material has emerged from Saqqarah, but while a respectable amount of the Elephantine material is intact, virtually all of the Saqqarah pieces are fragmentary. Aramaic was the lingua franca of the Persian Empire and while almost all the Elephantine material stems from a Jewish military colony, that from Saqqarah is free of Jewish reference. There are no law codes or royal edicts, but private contracts, court records (Saqqarah only), letters private and official, fragments of the Bisitun inscription, and the Words of Ahiqar.
The best preserved documents were two family archives acquired on the antiquities market, the Anani archive (EPE B34–46; with the exception of B34) by Charles Edwin Wilbour in 1893 and the Mibtahiah archive by Lady William Cecil and Sir Robert Mond (EPE B23–33) in 1904. These documents deal with sale and bequest, marriage, manumission, slavery, and litigation. Texts subsequently discovered in excavation by Otto Rubensohn in 1906–8 added deeds of obligation (EPE B48, 51;TAD B4.1, 3–5) and judicial oaths (EPE B49, 52;TAD B7.1, 4). The average legal contract was a narrative document, opening in objective style with date and identity of the parties and concluding similarly with mention of scribe (and sometimes place) and witnesses. The operative part of the document was a subjective statement made by the party on whom lay the obligation. This would be the seller who warrants the buyer's title (EPE B37, 45), the donor who spells out the beneficiary's rights (EPE B25, 38, 40, 43–44), the borrower who lays down terms of repayment (EPE B46, 48), or the defeated litigant who guarantees his opponent's