The Nile Valley and Luxor Sights

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Deir al-Medina Review

Between the Valleys of the Nobles and the Valley of the Queens, in its own small valley, lies Deir al-Medina, the Village of the Workmen. Artisans who inhabited the village were in charge of building and decorating the royal tombs of the Valley of the Kings between the 18th and 20th Dynasties. The site includes their houses, the tombs of many of the workmen, and a small temple dedicated to several gods. The temple was founded during the reign of Amenhotep III (18th Dynasty) and was rebuilt more than 1,100 years later during the reign of Ptolemy IV. Coptic Christians later turned the temple into a monastery.

The village is made up of houses of small dimensions, built against each other. They have similar plans, consisting of three or four rooms, some of which are decorated. Some have basements, and all, probably, had second floors, or used their roof space. Hygiene in the village is believed to have been good—there was a village doctor—and the villagers likely lived much as local people do today.

Although the tombs are small, they are jewel-like, with vibrant colors and beautifully detailed images—in other words, the workers applied the technical and artistic skill that they used on their employers' projects to their own as well. On the outside of many tombs stood small pyramids, where offerings were brought for the deceased. Since the artisans worked on the royal tombs, it is natural that there would be certain similarities between the decoration of the tombs of the Valley of the Kings and the decoration of their own sepulchres.

One of the most astonishing workers' tombs is that of Senedjem (No. 1), who was an artist during the reigns of Seti I and Ramses II. The paintings on the walls of the burial chamber are extremely fresh looking. Notice on the opposite wall, left of the entrance, the god Anubis tending a mummy on a couch, surrounded with texts from the Book of the Dead. On the ceilings are several scenes showing the deceased kneeling in adoration before the gods.

    Contact Information

  • Address: Thebes
  • Cost: £E30 (access to two tombs)
  • Hours: 6 am–5 pm
  • Location: The Theban Necropolis

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