Dated 18 September 66, this papyrus preserves the complete text of an apprenticeship agreement between a father, Tryphon, and a weaver called Ptolomaeus in the city of Oxyrhynchus (Middle Egypt).
Apprenticeship in Greco-Roman Egypt, similarly to today’s practice, was regarded as an important way to gain experience by working alongside established artisans. As apprentices were usually children with no rights to enter into contractual obligations, agreements were set up between their parents and the businesses involved.
Contracts, like this text, outlined the obligations of craftsmen and their apprentices: craftsmen were supposed to provide the best instruction they could, while young people were not allowed to terminate their apprenticeship before the time agreed in the contract. Apprentices and their families covered the costs of accommodation and food, but the instructor had to give them a monthly wage (in this instance 5 drachms) and a one-off payment (12 drachms in this case) at the end of the agreed period.
This papyrus was one of the thousands of fragments found in Oxyrhynchus in the 19th century and was presented to the British Museum by the Egypt Exploration Society in October 1900.