Papyrus marriage contract between the priest Pagosh and Teteimhotep

From Assiut, Egypt
Ptolemaic Period, 172 BC

Marriage contracts were first recorded in the Late Period (661-332 BC), and continued until the first century AD. They were often drawn up by the husband to establish the rights of both parties to maintenance and possessions. The law did not require a marriage to be recorded.

This example is written on papyrus in demotic script. In the contract the husband agrees to pay a stipulated amount of money within thirty days in the event of divorce. The woman could receive a third of the marriage settlement, or even more. Many contracts stipulated that any children of the marriage would be brought up as the man's heirs. On the reverse of the papyrus is a list of eight witnesses to the contract.

At the time that these contracts were drawn up, it was possible for a woman to leave her husband. Reasons for divorce included adultery on either side, failure of the woman to produce an heir, the husband's dislike for his wife or his wish to marry another woman. The wife was entitled to some support from her husband, no matter what the circumstances of the divorce might be. Once divorced, both partners were free to remarry.

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More information


M. Stead, Egyptian life (London, The British Museum Press, 1986)


Length: 58.500 cm (frame)
Width: 35.500 cm (frame)

Museum number

EA 10593



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