Yale School of Management



Hawara is the site of the massive pyramid of Amenemhat III, a XII Dynasty [Middle Kingdom, 1204 – 1604 B.C.E.] pharaoh. The complex was known in ancient times for its remarkable labyrinth, a temple complex encircling the pyramid, described by ancient travelers as a vast, confusing maze of streets and buildings.  According to legend, it inspired Dedalus  to create the labyrinth of Crete.   Among other  things, the Hawaralabyrinth was the location of a temple to Sobek, the revered  local crocodile deity.  (A representation of Sobek is on the right)

Hawara was also a necropolis – now famous for its strikingly realistic funerary portraits.  Funerals were evidently a major business in Hawara, and most of the people involved in the contracts in this case were connected to this industry.  Calling themselves “god’s sealers and embalmers,” they owned shares in embalming  businesses situated in the necropolis of Hawara and nearby burial grounds -- these shares were, in fact, transferable, just like real property.

Our focus is on one house in the Labyrinth of  Hawara,  near the Sobek temple.  The mortage documents presented elsewhere on this web site were written during the Ptolemaic period [332-31 B.C.E.], when Ptolemy II Philadelphus was the king of Egypt.  The Fayum region at this time was a place where Greek soldiers were granted  homestead properties.  The main administrative center of the Fayum wasCrocodilopolis, or Arsinoe a short distance to the northwest of Hawara.  The Greek rulers of Egypt in many cases adopted local administrative practices and political units. 

Beside the Hawara mortgage documents, the web site also provides links to a modern, generic mortgage for the state of Connecticut. Finally, the web site provides material for you to reflect on the role mortgages and property titles play in society. In a 2001 essay, the economist Hernando De Soto considers the importance of property rights towards the development of modern-day Egypt. His focus on property rights as a development strategy has been critisized by other economists and development experts and a few links to these critics are provided at the final tab.

Raw, online
Teaching Note:
Suggested Citation:

Will Goetzmann and Jaan Elias, “ Hawara,” Yale SOM Case 07-051, January 14, 2008.

  • Ancient Egypt
  • Mortgage
  • Real estate
  • Asset Management
  • Business History