Law 199 society in Egypt must be sought for in a period which is not covered by the sources available to us. Old and Middle Kingdoms (3i88-c. ijoo B.C.) During the period of the Old Kingdom Egypt was governed by a strictly absolute monarchy. The king was the sole legis- lator. The cult of the Ruler raised him to a divine status and made it a religious obligation to perform his commands. Not only had he full power over the life and death of his subjects, but he could also control their labour and their property. But this 'superior ownership' of the king did not impede the develop- ment of a system of private law. At any rate not all land was administered as Crown property, for there were estates which could be the subject of legal transactions concluded between private persons. To an even greater extent chattels could be the subject of private ownership. A person could validly acquire the ownership in any object only either by giving some consideration for it or under a special document, the so-called 'house-document5,1 drawn up by the former owners and setting out the transfer of ownership. Thus Egyptian law distinguished between acquisition for a con- sideration and acquisition by gift, and it checked the mating of gifts through its insistence upon the necessity for such a document. This 'hostility to gifts' is a peculiarity which is to be found later in the Germanic codes and also in the code of the Akkadian King Hammurabi (1791-1749 B.C.); but so far as we know it makes its first appearance in the law of Egypt. Such 'house-documents' were also drawn up in the case of a sale of valuable objects. The declaration of the former owner that he was willing to transfer the ownership in the object was noted on a piece of papyrus, followed by the names of three witnesses who had heard the declaration. Some high official then rolled up and fastened the papyrus with a seal, so as to make 1 Imytpr—an accurate translation of this word has not yet been found.