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Voluntary slavery existed in Ancient Egypt

Ancient papyrus documents, some of which date back 2,200 years, have been found in Egypt which detail contracts where people have willingly signed themselves and their families over as slaves. Kim Ryholt, from the University of Copenhagen, believes that the people who signed these contracts may have been at the bottom of the social ladder and were trying to avoid a worse fate: hard labour.

“I am your servant from this day onwards, and I shall pay 2½ copper-pieces every month as my slave-fee before Soknebtunis, the great god.”

This is part of the translation of 100 of these papyrus slave contracts that Ryholt has spent years trying to collect and analyse. The documents were scattered in fragments across Egypt, Europe and the US after they were illicitly excavated. In one example, a contract was divided between Copenhagen and the British Museum.

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Story: Hazem Zohny, Nature | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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