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Deir el-Medina

Deir el-Medina (Arabic: دير المدينة‎‎) is an ancient Egyptian village which was home to the artisans who worked on the tombs in the Valley of the Kings during the 18th to 20th dynasties of the New Kingdom period (ca. 1550–1080 BC) The settlement's ancient name was "Set Maat" (translated as "The Place of Truth"), and the workmen who lived there were called “Servants in the Place of Truth”.

The first datable remains of the village belong to the reign of Thutmosis I (c. 1506-1493 BCE) with its final shape being formed during the Ramesside Period At its peak, the community contained around sixty-eight houses spread over a total area of 5,600 m2 with a narrow road running the length of the village. The main road through the village may have been covered to shelter the villagers from the intense glare and heat of the sun. The size of the habitations varied, with an average floor space of 70 m2, but the same construction methods were used throughout the village. Walls were made of mudbrick, built on top of stone foundations. Mud was applied to the walls which were then painted white on the external surfaces with some of the inner surfaces whitewashed up to a height of around one metre. A wooden front door might have carried the occupants name. Houses consisted of four to five rooms comprising an entrance, main room, two smaller rooms, kitchen with cellar and staircase leading to the roof. The full glare of the sun was avoided by situating the windows high up on the walls. The main room contained a mudbrick platform with steps which may have been used as a shrine or a birthing bed. Nearly all houses contained niches for statues and small altars. The tombs built by the community for their own use include small rock-cut chapels and substructures adorned with small pyramids.

Village life

The settlement was home to a mixed population of Egyptians, Nubians and Asiatics who were employed as labourers, (stone-cutters, plasterers, water-carriers), as well as those involved in the administration and decoration of the royal tombs and temples. The artisans and the village were organised into two groups, left and right gangs who worked on opposite sides of the tomb walls similar to a ship's crew, with a foreman for each who supervised the village and its work.

Based on analysis of income and prices, the workmen of the village would, in modern terms, be considered middle class. As salaried state employees they were paid in rations at up to three times the rate of a fieldhand, but unofficial second jobs were also widely practiced. At great festivals such as the heb sed the workmen were issued with extra supplies of food and drink to allow a stylish celebration.

The working week was eight days followed by two days holiday, though the six days off a month could be supplemented frequently due to illness, family reasons and, as recorded by the scribe of the tomb, rowing with wife or having a hangover. Including the days given over to festivals, over one-third of the year was time-off for the villagers during the reign of Merneptah (c. 1213–1203 BCE).

During their days off the workmen could work on their own tombs, and since they were amongst the best craftsmen in Ancient Egypt who excavated and decorated royal tombs, their own tombs are considered to be some of the most beautiful on the west bank.

A large proportion of the community, including women, could at least read and possibly write.

The jobs of the workers would have been considered desirable and prized positions with the posts being inheritable.

The examples of love songs recovered show how friendship between the sexes was practised, as was social drinking by both men and women. Egyptian marriages amongst commoners were monogamous but little is known about the marriage or wedding arrangements from surviving records. It was not unusual for couples to have six or seven children with some recorded as having ten.

Separation, divorce and remarriage occurred. Merymaat is recorded as wanting a divorce on account of his mother in-law's behaviour. Girl slaves could become surrogate mothers in cases where the wife was infertile and in doing so raise their status and procure their freedom.

The community could move freely in and out of the walled village but for security reasons only outsiders who had good work related reasons could enter the site.

Women and village life

The records from this village provide most of the information we know about how women lived in the New Kingdom era. Women were supplied with servants by the government to assist with the grinding of the grain and laundry tasks. The wives of the workers cared for the children and baked the bread, a prime food source in these societies. The vast majority of women who had a particular religious status embedded in their names were married to foremen or scribes and could hold the titles of chantress or singer with official positions within local shrines or temples, perhaps even within the major temples of Thebes. Under Egyptian law they had property rights. They had title to their own wealth and a third of all marital goods. This would belong solely to the wife in case of divorce or death of the husband. If she died first it would go to her heirs, not to her spouse. Brewing of beer was normally supervised by the Mistress of the House, though the workmen considered the monitoring of the activity as a legitimate excuse for taking time off work.

Law and order

The workers and their families were not slaves but free citizens with recourse to the justice system as required. In principle any Egyptian could petition the vizier and could demand a trial by his peers. The community had its own court of law made up of a foreman, deputies, craftsmen and a court scribe, and were authorised to deal with all civil and some criminal cases, typically relating to the non-payment of goods or services. The villagers represented themselves and cases could go on for several years, with one dispute involving the chief of police lasting eleven years. The local police, Medjay, were responsible for preserving law and order as well as controlling access to the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. One of the most famous cases recorded relates to Paneb the son of an overseer who was accused of looting royal tombs, adultery and causing unrest in the community. The outcome is not known but surviving records indicate the execution of a head of workmen at this time.

Medical Care

The records and ostraca from Deir el-Medina provide a deeply compelling view into the medical workings of the New Kingdom. Like in other Egyptian communities, the workmen and inhabitants of Deir el-Medina received care for their health problems through medical treatment, prayer, and magic. Nevertheless, the records at Deir el-Medina indicate some level of division, as records from the village note both a “physician” who saw patients and prescribed treatments, and a “scorpion charmer” who specialized in magical cures for scorpion bites.

Popular piety

The excavations of the royal artisans community at Deir el-Medina have revealed much evidence of personal religious practice and cults. State gods were worshipped freely alongside personal gods without any conflict between national and local modes of religious expression.

The community had between sixteen and eighteen chapels, with the larger ones dedicated to Hathor, Ptah and Ramesses II. The workmen seem to have honoured Ptah and Reshep, the scribes Thoth and Seshat, as patron deities of their particular activity. Women had particular devotion towards Hathor, Taweret, and Bes in pregnancy, turning to Renenutet and Meretseger for food and safety. Meretseger, "Lady of the Western Mountain", was perhaps, at a local level, at least as important as Osiris, the great god of the dead.

The villagers held Amenhotep I (c. 1526–1506 BCE) and his mother Queen Ahmose Nefertari in high regard over many generations, possibly as divinized patrons of the community. When Amenhotep died he became the centre of a village funerary cult, worshipped as "Amenhotep of the Town". When the Queen died she also was deified and became "Mistress of the Sky" and "Lady of the West". Every year the villagers celebrated the Festival of Amenhotep I when the elders acted as priests in the ceremonies that paid honour to their own local gods who were not worshipped anywhere else in Egypt.


Qetes

Dream interpretation, a gift which Hebrew scriptures also attribute to Joseph, was very common. A book of dreams was found in Scribe Kenhirkhopeshef's library which was old even in his time. This book was used to interpret various types of dreams. These interpretations lacked precision and similar dreams often had different meanings. In many cases the interpretation was the opposite of what the dream depicted, for example a happy dream often signified sadness, a dream of plenty often signified scarceness etc.

MeDINa (grad na arapskom), GraDINa (rimski gradovi) - Danovci (Dinaric) drevni graditelji gradova


The Wooden coffer was made of acacia

The Wooden coffer was made of acacia  wood and measuring 111 by 49 cm. Its shape  resembles a shrine: the lid, which slopes towards  the back, closes against a palmetto cornice. It  was secured by a cord winding around mushroom shaped knobs. A funerary offering formula in sunk relief appears on the lid.

 

Wooden coffer of Merit The flat lid is painted with a "trompe l' oeil" wood grain pattern  decoration. The carved and painted inscription  is a funerary offering formula dedicated to Merit's ka-spirit.

Od bagremova drva neka naprave Kovčeg - Izlazak

Akacija (bagrem)


Turin Erotic Papyrus


Turin Erotic Papyrus


Dendera

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