Were there slaves in Ancient Egypt?
Welcome to Quatr.us Study Guides!

Slaves in Ancient Egypt

egyptian slave beating
Man beating a slave
while another begs for mercy

April 2016 - Just like in other parts of Africa, some people in Ancient Egypt were slaves. Some of them came originally from Egypt - often children sold into slavery by poor families. Criminals might also be sentenced to slavery (there were no prisons yet). Others were sold from other countries into slavery in Egypt, or captured as prisoners of war. A lot of people from Meroe and Kush, south of Egypt, were slaves in Egypt, and a lot of people from Libya.

overseers beat a group of crouching black people
Slaves with dark skin, probably from south of Egypt

The most famous story about Egyptian slaves is the one in the Bible about how the Jews were slaves in Egypt, about 1400-1200 BC. Because the Egyptians had just conquered Israel at this time, probably many Jews were enslaved about this time. Then when the Egyptian New Kingdom collapsed, Israel became an independent country again, and the Egyptians stopped being able to enslave the Jews.

Most slaves in Egypt probably worked in the fields, like everyone else. But many were house cleaners, nannies, wet nurses, cooks, or skilled dancers, musicians, accountants, and scribes, as Joseph was in the Bible.

Learn by doing: African trade project
More about Egyptian farming

Bibliography and further reading about Egyptian slaves:

Everyday Life in Ancient Egypt, by Lionel Casson (revised edition 2001). Not especially easy, 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 farming
More about ancient Egypt
Quatr.us home


Celebrating Black History Month with the pharaoh Hatshepsut, the queen Shanakdakhete, the poet Phillis Wheatley, the medical consultant Onesimus, the freedom fighters Toussaint L'Ouverture, Denmark Vesey, Yaa Asantewaa, and Samora Moises Machel, and the civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
Please help other teachers and students find us: link to this page from your class page.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
Cite this page
  • Author: K.E. Carr
  • Title:
  • Site Name: Quatr.us Study Guides
  • Publisher: Quatr.us
  • Date Published:
Proud of your class page, homework page, or resource page? Send it in and win a Quatr.us "Great Page!" award!
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Comment on This Article

Cool stuff we've been enjoying: Looking for birthday gifts? Check out these new Chromebooks - all the computer you need for only $229.00!. Then study in peace with these Beats wireless headphones - for the exact same price! When you're done, show off your presentation or watch a movie with this excellent smartphone projector for only $39.99!


Does your class page honor diversity, celebrate feminism, and support people of color, LBGTQ people, and people with disabilities? Let us know, and we'll send you a Diversity Banner you can proudly display!
Looking for more?
ADVERTISEMENT
Quatr.us is loading comments...
(Comments will appear after moderation, if they are kind and helpful. Feel free to ask questions, and we'll try to answer them.)
Cite this page
  • Carr, K.E. . Quatr.us Study Guides, . Web. 26 February, 2017
ADVERTISEMENT