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.
The community at Deir el-Medina consisted once of the workers and craftsmen employed in the construction of the tombs of the King's Valley. There are a couple of tombs & house traces, very interesting to see the life & rituals of the people serving there...
Deir el-Medina as it is known is where the workers from the royal tombs lived. There is the ruins of the village where they lived and some small tombs here. But if possible when visiting the West Bank fit in a visit to here because the decorations inside on e of the tombs are absolutely fantastic and clear.
Deir el-Medina & Workmen's Village are open free of charge. This place has two interesting tombs with stunning decorated chambers. (Tombs no. 359 and NO.1). Worth visiting. Admission ticket for both tombs is 20 EGP (May 2006) . You can only puchase at the central ticket office near the Colossi of Memnon.
Deir el Madina or the Valley of the Workers housed the sculptors, masons and painters who created the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings. As many were literate, they detailed extracts of their lives on papyri such as labour disputes, who feuded with whom and even details of their intimate lives!
Normally these jobs were passed down through the generations of the family and in their spare time they would build and decorate their own tombs in Deir el Medina.
Your ticket costs 30LE for adults with concessions for children and students and will allow you entry into 2 tombs (does not include the tomb of Peshedu which is charged separately). No cameras allowed in the tombs.
We visited the tombs of Ankherha and Sennedjem which featured colourful murals and were well worth a visit, although the steps are quite steep to enter the burial chambers.
Opposite the tombs you can see the ruins of the workers' houses in the walled enclosures.
In the artisans village you can visit the tomb of Sennedjem, a foreman among the workers. Here the wall decorations are wonderfully bright and clear. This picture was taken from www.touregypt.net as we weren't allowed to take photos inside the tomb.
The community of artisans who dedicated their life to the construction and decoration of nearby royal tombs in the Necropolis of Thebes resided in this small valley. Overtime, a sizeable village - now referred to as Deir el-Medina - developed specifically for the artisans and their families. It was uncovered by archeologists and is one of the few residential areas remaining intact from the Pharaonic period. Much like their royal superiors, these artisans were equally obsessed with the afterlife and utilised their advanced skills to build for themselves and their families simple, yet highly ornate, tombs in and around their village of Deir el-Medina. On the surface, the archeological area of Deir el-Medina looks like a Pompei of Ancient Egypt, except the painted walls and frescoes are found in tombs rather than in villas! More details are posted on my separate page on the Necropolis of Thebes.