It is so weird that this is the first spot I saw in Egypt -- the Deir al-Medina. This is where the monument builders lived-- apparently, the workers and craftsmen led a good life. The layout of the houses can still be seen very clearly - about 70 houses enclosed in a protective wall. This Worker's Village is a great find since some of the walls contain some writings and records from those who used to live here. It must have been a very busy place. There's also a temple near it and it was surprising that I was the only tourist walking around. I even went up the temple roof and got a picture with the Egyptian caretaker, followed by a little tip. Wonderful place to visit and not yet explored as much by the hordes of tourists! A good start to my Egyptian adventure...
The relief artwork content and style inside the Artisan Temple emphasizes more mystical themes, and less formality than is found in either the Tombs of the Nobles or Royal Tombs. Smoke damage provides evidence that this place was inhabited for a long time after the fall of the Egyptian civilization. In any case, these photos provide additional guidance as to what once will see. The photos were shoot using ASA 50 Velvia without flash, so I had to use the computer to enhance the brightness and sharpness, but basically this is what will be seen. I recommend bringing a camera that can handle lower light conditions. Flash is not a good idea.
The workers that built the great tombs of the Pharaohs lived in a village not far from the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens. Many tombs have been discovered here.
The workers tombs at Deir el-Medineh are well worth a visit. They are not in the same league as the tombs in the Valley of the Kings but they are every bit the equal of the tombs of the nobles. Only a couple are open to visitors and they are very scrict about not allowing any photography - in fact I had to leave my camera outside the tombs. They are painted inside with amazing scenes in vivid colours and are very impressive. Follow the link below for an example of the tombs.
Also on the site is a small Ptolemic temple that is a little way from the tombs but worth a visit. Although small there is a lot of well preserved art visible much of it still painted in the original colours.
At the far end of the little valley, just beyond the ruins of the worker homes, there is the Temple for the Artisans. At the time we visited in 1997, it was still being restored. The mud brick ruins shown in places around it are additions by those who inhabited the place in the centuries afterward, but basically, the rectangular structure sits on the edge of a hill. There's an internal stairway the passes various dark rooms, and on the roof there is a nice view across the agricultural plain of the West Bank. The workmanship of the reliefs inside is considerable, which is not surprising since this was the place of worship for the craftsman who lived in Deir al Medina. The artwork reflects the realism of the Ptolemaic period when it was built. Built by Philopator, Philometor, and Euergetes between 221 and 116 BC, it is dedicated to the Gods Hathor and Maat, which are frequently depicted inside. Deir al-Medina, or "monastery of the town" refers to the occupation of the building by early Christian monks.
Deir el-medina is the ruined township that was inhabited by workmen and is now known as the Artisan village.
The village was founded by Tuthmose I and housed the many workers and craftsmen who built and decorated the tombs within the Valley of the Kings. All that is left of the village are the stone wall which mark out the houses and the streets
When they weren’t working, they built and decorated their own tombs and you can visit two of them here. The tombs are small in comparison to those of the pharaohs and can be quite claustrophobic, but it is worth a look at the wall paintings.
These images are ofcourse affected by the flourescent light required to see them. I shot with roll film in those days, and I didn't have a color correcting filter. Oh well, those viewing these images will have to see them for themselves. Television documentaries and this virtualtourist.com site are no substitute for seeing these images for real. Note in this collection the image of the fellow with the jaguar pelt and trained doves. Inherka's tomb was fully finished from wall to ceiling before he died, and it seems that his wife was very powerful. She is frequently pictured in same size as him. No word on whether or not she was also an artist, but the delicate nature of the work suggests that she influenced his outlook on life very much. There's no battle scenes or Ramses punishing his enemies scenes down here.
Of course someone had to build the last home (the tombs) of the Pharao and the people who did so were not slaves as some thought but normal workers.
They lived with their families in a Valley close to the Valley of the kings. Their houses built from dried mud brick can still be seen today (see picture).
Because they left us a lot of "evidence" in the form of painted pottery shards we know a lot about the lives of the workers. They had to work 8 days in a row, in that time they camped close to the tomb, then they had 2 days free with their families. Because they could not grow their own food here, they had to rely on the monthly food supply from the Pharao.
They also made their own tombs - smaller ones, but with fabulous colors, that you can visit here.
Unfortunately you can not take any pictures, this would kill the colors - but really they look like fresh painted.
Sennedjen's one room tomb represents a high point in terms of color not only for Dier al Medina, but for all the West Bank, and for that matter all Egypt. The tombs of the servants and respected overseers of the tomb construction were not filled with so much gold and nobility, and so were for the most part ignored by looters and early archeologists. The inner tomb walls appear to be frescoes of sort, or maybe painted, but in any case these are not basreliefs. The artwork emphasizes themes from the Book of the Dead from the perspective of a commoner rather than royalty, and so vivid color landscapes of workers plowing fields and of families are important content here. Photography of these tombs is difficult due to the dirty plexiglass put up to protect the works from tourist hands. Also, flourscent lighting turns my images a greenish hue, as I didn't have a color correction filter on my roll film camera at the time. Note the curved ceiling of the inner tomb and the rough cut entrance stairwell. Sennedjem was a 19th dynasty servant.
Like Sennedjen's tomb, Inherka's tomb is filled with colorful life-like scenes. The emphasis here seems more on family and entertainment. The touching family portrait with Inherka's daughters is particularly inspiring in this respect. The artisans had wealth--finely woven linen fabric clothes, wigs, and private musical entertainment. Inherka and his wife were not only affected by the gods, but also by the natural world that surrounded them. Birds and animals are part of the artwork in this tomb.
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