Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!

Ancient Egypt’s “Voluntary Slaves”

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

COPENHAGEN—Kim Ryholt of the University of Copenhagen has been collecting and studying Egyptian slave contracts written on papyrus, which are thought to have been looted from a garbage pit in the ancient temple city of Tebtunis. In the 2,200-year-old documents, people signed themselves and their families over as temple servants, even paying a monthly “slave fee.” Ryholt thinks that these slaves may have been people without social status who chose temple slavery over heavier forced labor.