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Ancient Egyptian Law


Admission requirements

Not applicable.


No actual law codes from ancient Egypt have come down to us, although a few legal manuals have survived. In this course we will examine some of the basic aspects of the Egyptian legal system using these manuals as well as hieroglyphic, hieratic and demotic sources such as sales, loans, donations, marriage and divorce, inheritance, lease, etc., including a famous lawsuit from Assyut (170 BC). Translations of these sources – mostly written on papyrus – will be provided prior to each class.

Course objectives

To acquaint students with the basic principles of the legal system of ancient Egypt and demotic papyrology using translations of legal documents from the Middle Kingdom to the Roman Period.


Wednesday, 13.00-15.00 at the Papyrologisch Instituut (in the University Library).

Mode of instruction

Class instruction. Following an introduction by the lecturer students will each give a 45 minute peer-reviewed presentation on a specific subject.

Assessment method

Attendance, preparation and participation in class discussion (50%). Final written exam (50%).

Areas to be tested within the exam
Texts in reader and class discussion.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials
J.G. Manning, ‘Egypt. Demotic Law’, in: (R. Westbrook (ed.), A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law, Vol. 2 (Handbuch der Orientalistik / Handbook of Oriental Studies. Ägyptologie I, 72/2) 2003, pp. 819-862

K. Donker van Heel, Djekhy & Son. Doing Business in Ancient Egypt (2012)


Students have to register for courses and exams through uSis.

Contact details

  • Name: K. Donker van Heel

  • Work address: Papyrological Institute

  • Telephone: +31 (0)71 527 2906

  • Contact information: via email

  • Email:


  • Departement: Papyrological Institute

  • Room number secretariat: Papyrological Institute, Universiteitsbibliotheek (University Library), Witte Singel 27, Leiden

  • Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 9:00-17:00

  • Telephone number secretariat: +31 (0)71 527 2906


Belangstellenden die deze cursus in het kader van Contractonderwijs willen volgen (met tentamen), vinden hier meer informatie over kosten, inschrijving, voorwaarden, etc.