Ancient Egyptian Slaves

Slavery was quite common in ancient civilizations. Ancient Egypt was no different. Ancient Egyptian slaves performed numerous jobs within society.

Researchers believe 80% of the population in ancient Egypt was peasants or slaves.

Slavery in ancient Egypt changed from the old kingdom to the new kingdom. The old kingdom had fewer slaves serving the population while during the new kingdom slavery increased.

The increase of slavery in the new kingdom was the result of military campaigns and warfare with neighboring countries.

How ancient Egyptian slaves were created

Ancient Egyptian slaves were created in different ways. The first was from warfare. This type of ancient Egyptian slave was captured on the battlefield and the losing soldiers became slaves.

Other ways a person was put into slavery was by birth or owing an unpaid debt.

Many ancient Egyptian slaves were children. Parents might sell their children into slavery to pay a debt. Other children were born into slavery.

At times, debt slavery in ancient Egypt was limited to the amount of money the person owed. An ancient Egyptian slave could be set free after their debt was paid. Military slaves or prisoners of war were often set free after a specific period of service was completed.

Ancient Egyptian slaves also enjoyed a wide variety of legal rights. For instance, an ancient Egyptian slave was able to own property, they employed servants and they married freeborn people when possible.

Ancient Egyptian slaves and jobs

Ancient Egyptian slaves worked within society performing different jobs based on their skill set. Ancient Egyptian slaves worked as farm laborers, gardeners and house servants as well as cutting stones in quarries.

Other jobs ancient Egyptian slaves performed were as entertainers such as dancers and musicians. More educated ancient Egyptian slaves, usually from a different country were accountants as well as scribes for the rich and powerful ancient Egyptian families.

During the flooding season of the Nile River, farming slaves were moved to other projects. These projects included constructing government buildings, digging canals or perhaps sailing vessels.

Ancient Egyptian slaves constructed many of the large palaces for the pharaohs and rich ancient Egyptian families. Most researchers believe ancient Egyptian slaves did not build the pyramids during the old kingdom period. They believe the pyramids were mainly built by soldiers or contract laborers.

Care for ancient Egyptian slaves

Ancient Egyptian slaves that worked within wealthier homes were treated better. In ancient Egypt, it was an owner’s job to provide for slaves. Some slaves like scribes and accountants received salaries for their services.

Ancient Egyptian slaves that worked within the residence of the pharaoh were treated the best. Many researchers believe that ancient Egyptian slaves had a comfortable life compared to peasants.

Ancient Egyptian slaves were fed, received housing, a small salary at times and were not forced to pay taxes like peasants.

Important facts about ancient Egyptian slaves

  • Ancient Egyptian slaves comprised 80% of the population.
  • Children of ancient Egyptian slaves became slaves at birth.
  • Most ancient Egyptian slaves were prisoners of war.
  • The most common job for ancient Egyptian slaves was farming.
  • Ancient Egyptian slaves worked as house servants, entertainers, accountants and scribes.
  • Debt slaves were able to gain freedom after their debt was paid.
  • Ancient Egyptian slaves constructed many government projects such as buildings and canals but not the pyramids.
  • Ancient Egyptian slaves enjoyed legal rights such as owning property, marrying freeborn people and employing servants.

Questions

  • Who was the most common type of ancient Egyptian slave?
    Prisoners of war
  • What do researchers believe ancient Egyptian slaves did not build?
    Pyramids
  • What was the most common job for ancient Egyptian slaves?
    Farming
  • During which kingdom did the use of slaves rise in ancient Egypt?
    The new kingdom