Egyptian tidbits

This website says that in marriage, the husband paid about the cost of a slave to the wife’s family as part of the marriage contract.

This site, whose background looks like lined school paper, is a good intro to basic Egypt stuff, including interesting things like the calendar, medicine, the decimal system, and the Pharoah who tried to introduce the worship of a single god.

This site tells the history of silver and gold in ancient Egypt. Gold was more common in the Old Kingdom, so silver was rarer. The gods were thought to have skin of gold and bones of silver. But I was really wanting to know about slave costs. I found that here, too.

“The shat (seniu, Sna or shena) was originally a flat silver disk. It came to denote about 7.5 or 7.6g of silver. A deben, or kit, was a weight of 90 to 91g. It should be noted that the shat was always used as a unit of value and not as a weight for other purposes, while the deben was used in such a manner. . . At the end of the 18th dynasty a goat, for example, cost one half of a shat of silver, a cow was eight shat and a typical house cost ten shat of silver. A male slave could bring seven deben of silver, while a female slave might bring four deben. ”

So a house was cheaper than a slave by a huge amount. Hmmm.

Another website gives different info on the price of goods and what a deben actually was.

“Cost was measured in a deben (a copper weight of .5 ounces).� For goods like razors or shoes the cost would be one or two deben, but for four pigs it would cost more like twenty deben which they would trade for something that was worth the same amount.

Jobs in Ancient Egypt included government officials, soldiers, scribes, doctors, merchants, dancers, fishermen, hunters, bakers, carpenters, coffin-makers, spinners, weavers, jewelers, pyramid builders, Egyptian artists, and farmers.� Most Egyptians were farmers.� The main crops grown in Egypt were wheat, barley, lettuce, beans, onions, figs, dates, grapes, melons, and cucumbers.� The pharaoh was the controller of the jobs .�

Between the ages of four and fourteen children attended school.� Little boys started learning their father�s job when they were four.� When they were older they were expected to do the same occupation as their father.� Girls and boys both attended school together.� They studied reading, writing, and math.� Children who were going to be lawyers, scribes, or doctors went to a special school were they studied hieroglyphics.� When girls grew up they took to tending the home.”

This is interesting info for me, since I’m going to be teaching one short class on Egypt.

Another site gives info on the hair cuts of the day. It also talks about slavery as much more indentured servanthood. Which was true in some other areas as well, historically.

“This image of the child whose head is shaved except for the single “lock of childhood” was standard in ancient Egypt. Shaving the scalp was standard practice for adult males as well, partly because the wearing of wigs was a regular practice, but also because of the climate. Egypt is a desert nation, and even the cooler regions along the river are hot and humid. Shaving a child’s head regularly served two purposes ~ the main one was to keep the head free of parasites, since insects of every kind were more of an issue then ~ but also to accustom the child to such grooming habits. Self-grooming was very important to the Egyptians, who were known throughout the ancient world as the cleanest people in the civilized world. Our modern penchant for hair comes from our background of the cold climates of Europe ~ we need all that for extra warmth!…

Slavery in ancient Egypt was different from the kind of slavery we have come to recognize, and certainly different from slavery in Mesopotamia or Rome at the same time. Egyptian slaves were more like the indentured servants of colonial America. They were able to buy or work their way to freedom, and were usually well cared for. They could hold important advisory positions in government, and there were several well-known slaves who became high officials in the Pharaoh�s court. Prisoners were sent to work in the various mines which Egypt owned. The Pyramids, by the way, were NOT built by slaves, but by paid workers who were very proud of their work. The workers put their names and the names of their work teams on the insides of the blocks of stones, and they were allowed to build their own tombs within sight of the Pyramid, which was quite an honor. In those ancient times, you were better off as a slave in Egypt than as a free but poor person anywhere else.”

Even if you don’t know how much a dinar is worth, it gives you a relative scale to look at. “In a side room of the Pergamon Museum in Berlin I discovered a stone tablet on a wall.� It was an edict, very probably Diocletian�s, that had been displayed in the marketplace at Aizanoi.� It gave the binding price of commodities in dinars, in relation to the price of gold – one pound of gold equalling 72,000 dinars.� Livestock prices included the following: cow (formae primae)…2,000 dinars; goat formae primae…600 dinars; domedarius optimus…20,000; two-humped camel…60,000; human male from 16 to 40 years…30,000; female in the same age span…25,000; male over 60 or under 8…15,000; female same age…10,000; riding horse (equus currulis)…100,000; military horse formae primae…36,000.”

There is a site which has a lot on slavery in Ancient Egypt. It does, however, state that the story of Joseph is “apocryphal.” I wonder how they know that? It’s right after a section where forty women slaves were ordered from a prince of Canaan. Doesn’t seem to me that makes it unlikely. –It’s irritating when people don’t like something so they say it’s not true, with no basis for saying it other than they don’t like it.

An interesting and detailed discussion of slavery in Israel is found here.