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Life in ancient Egypt

6 Surprising Facts About Life for Egyptian Slaves

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The prominence of slavery in ancient Egypt is well-documented, but many aspects of enslaved people's lives remain less known. Here are six lesser-known facts about how Egyptian slaves lived. 

Firstly, while children could be enslaved, there were notable restrictions. Children of slaves were often considered the property of their masters, yet they were generally treated with care and could not be subjected to hard physical labor. Instead, they were often taught trades or given education. 

Secondly, not all slaves were confined to hard labor. Some were trained for administrative roles such as scribes or accountants. These positions were highly respected, and while most scribes were free, some slaves also held these roles, indicating opportunities for upward mobility. 

Thirdly, contrary to popular belief, slaves did not build the pyramids. Archaeological evidence suggests that the workers were skilled laborers who received compensation for their efforts. The notion of slaves constructing these monumental structures has been debunked, with findings indicating that the workforce lived in nearby settlements and enjoyed various benefits. 

Fourthly, slaves in royal households often had better lives than free peasants. Serving the royal family or nobility afforded them a higher status, better living conditions, and more opportunities for advancement. This preferential treatment was likely a strategic choice to ensure loyalty and trust. 

Fifthly, Egyptian slaves had some legal rights. Despite their status as property, they could earn income, start families, and own property in certain cases. These legal protections were relatively advanced compared to other ancient cultures. 

Lastly, there were multiple paths to freedom for slaves. They could buy their freedom, be freed by their masters for loyal service, or be liberated by the pharaoh. 

Enslaved people in debt often served only for a limited time until their debts were repaid, illustrating a degree of social mobility. 

Top image: Life in ancient Egypt. Source: Matrioshka/Adobe Stock 

 
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