Who inherited land in Ancient Egypt?
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Quatr.us answers questions: an online encyclopedia of history and science


Who inherited land?

scrap of papyrus with black writing
Land register in demotic writing (200s BC),
now at Duke University

As in other parts of Africa, ancient Egyptian law said that every child in the family should inherit the same amount of land or money when their parents died - both brothers and sisters.

The Egyptians themselves had some problems with this rule. Some families didn't like the idea that girls would take their part of the family farm with them into another family when they got married. So sometimes in ancient Egypt girls married their brothers, to keep the land in the family. Or, a family with no sons might adopt their daughter's husband (who would become her brother), so that he could inherit too.

Women sometimes had trouble enforcing their rights. In one lawsuit, a married woman is suing her brother because he is refusing to give her her fair share of their fathers' property. (Papyrus Brooklyn 35.1446, from the late Middle Kingdom, now in the Brooklyn Museum).

Learn by doing: making papyrus
More about families in ancient Egypt

Bibliography and further reading about families in ancient Egypt:

Everyday Life in Ancient Egypt, by Lionel Casson (revised edition 2001). Not especially for kids, but pretty entertaining reading, and Casson knows what he's talking about.

Private Life in New Kingdom Egypt, by Lynn Meskell (2002). A little more specialized and harder to read.

More about Egyptian families

More about inheritance
More about ancient Egypt
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Copyright 2012-2015 Karen Carr, Portland State University. This page last updated August 2015.

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