Courtesy of the Schøyen Collection

“I am his slave,” reads the cuneiform inscription in Old Babylonian on this 2000–1800 B.C. bronze branding iron, used to indelibly mark the foreheads of runaway slaves. The use of branding irons for this purpose is recorded in Babylonian writings, but this is the only such implement that has ever been found. It is certainly the most chilling object in Schøyen’s collection of ancient texts.