Egyptian Slavery Contracts Discovered

Recent discovery of 2,200 year old papyrus scrolls, have been recognised as voluntary slavery contracts within the city of Tebtunis, in Egypt. Within these hand written contracts in Demotic hieroglyphic script, the slaves were entitled to a monthly fee due to their agreement with being part of the slavery act.

According to Dr. Kim Ryholt, Egyptologist from the University of Copenhagen, the text reads, ‘I am your servant from this day onwards, and I shall pay 2.5 copper pieces every month as my slave – fee before Soknebtunis, the Great God.’

Due to many of the slaves being brought up in most of the lower-class section, some what 90% of them entered the contract as those without the knowledge of their own fathers’ name, and were considered the grown children of prostitutes.
Another reason for them to sign up, was that people in the lower-classed hierarchy were controlled and ordered by the king to do the dirty work in the canals or forced labor, which led to death.
By signing the slavery contract, this provided the slaves with a sort of protection scheme from forced labor, and agreed to work in the temples instead. This was seen as the better of the two odds. It was considered the safer alternative and survival tactic from the King’s hard & deadly labor and included more money.

This particular slave agreement contract took place for only 60 years, which carried out from 190 B.C. to 130 B.C., and there has been no other findings that suggest that this scenario took place during any other time frame in Ancient Egypt. As such, this could be because the royal family in the later periods could not financially support this similar slavery deal.

Dr Ryholts has spent many years in collecting these papyrus contracts to slavery, as they have been found scattered across, not only Egypt, but also the United States and Europe.

The papyrus contracts were recently found in one of the rubbish bins within the Temple of Tebtunis.

The amount of contracts that have been also discovered in different museums such as the British Museum, and found along collections in the university museums of New Havem, Florence, Michigan, as well as this finding in Tebtunis.

Dr. Ryholt explains that, by scanning these ancient contracts have helped to piece  together the quantities that exist from all the museums combined, which makes the results of the research easier for this search.

Copyright © 2013 Aleesha Csanki.




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