Joseph Aviram/Hebrew University and the Israel Exploration Society

With this scroll I thee owe. Second-century C.E. marriage contracts, such as the one belonging to Babatha’s stepdaughter, Shelmazion, detail a husband’s financial obligations to his wife. Sometimes the contracts indicate the bride price—the sum the man paid the woman’s family to marry her; sometimes they indicate the dowry—the sum the bride’s family gave the groom’s family; sometimes they indicate a combination of these practices. The marriage contract was not merely a ceremonial document; widows and divorcees did indeed collect the amount owed from their former husband’s family. Because of their importance, marriage contracts are one of the most common kinds of documents discovered among second-century C.E. women’s archives.