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Ancient Slavery : Slavery in Ancient Egypt

Year 10 History

History Defined

What was it like to be a slave in ancient Egypt? This is a question that historians have asked for many years, but we may never honestly know the answer. 

The History Press

Egypt was also another civilisation whose economy also depended on slavery. The relationship between slave and master was set down in law with some restrictions such as slave owners could not force child slaves to do unduly harsh physical labour.

World History Encyclopedia

Slaves in Egypt were either criminals, those who could not pay their debts, or captives from foreign military campaigns. These people were considered to have forfeited their freedoms either by their individual choices or by military conquest and so were forced to endure a quality of existence far below that of free Egyptians.

History Reference Centre


One of the most commonly held misconceptions about ancient Egypt is that slaves were used to build the pyramids. But recent archaeological evidence has found that this is not true, and it’s now suggested it was either farmers who built the pyramids when flooding meant they could not work on their own lands or that a workforce of labourers dedicated their entire lives to the task. That’s not to say Ancient Egypt didn’t have slavery. It did. It was just a little different to how we imagine it today.

Slaves and Slavery in Ancient Egypt .For many years, it was presumed that inancient Egypt, the GreatPyramids atGiza were built by many thousands of foreign slaves, toiling under very harsh conditions over a period of decades. Today, many scholars refute this picture of ancient Egypt, believing instead that they were built by the free Egyptians themselves, some perhaps as seasonal conscripts with other artisans consigned permanently to the projects. One must also consider just how the Egyptians would really control so many slaves in one location with the rudimentary weapons of theOld Kingdom. A slave is defined as "One bound in servitude as the property of a person or household". This is an interesting definition, considering that it does not refer to entities other than persons or households, such as the state. The definition of slavery does provide that it is "The state of one bound in servitude as the property of a slaveholder or household", which seems to have a broader scope. Certainly most of us would consider anyone bound in servitude, regardless to whom, a slave.

It can be difficult to understand ancient Egypt because its society is so different to our own. However, this brief introduction to the various social groups in Ancient Egypt will help you understand the way they thought and lived.

While the Egyptians used several terms to convey the notion of forced labor,[1] Egyptologists have typically used the translation “slave, servant” to understand two Egyptian terms.

Live Science

The practice of slavery in Egypt was very different from the modern conception of slavery informed by the trans-Atlantic slave trade, Karev said.


These drawings on the walls of a temple show the Hebrews, the people of Moses, long before he was commanded by God to deliver them from slavery. The drawings make it quite clear who was in charge. Here, a big, strong Egyptian demonstrates his power over grovelling slaves.