Deir al-Madinah

From Academic Kids

Deir al-Madinah is the Arabic name of an Ancient Egyptian village that was home to the artisans who built the temples and tombs ordered by the pharaohs and other dignitaries during the New Kingdom period (18th to 20th dynasties) in the Valley of the Kings.

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Egypt.Deir-al-Madinah.01.jpg
Ruins of the village

The settlement's ancient name, Set Maat her imenty Waset, meant "The place of Maat (or, by extension, "place of truth") to the west of Thebes"; the village is indeed located on the west bank of the Nile, across the river from modern-day Luxor. The Arabic name Deir al-Madinah (and variants on the transcription) means "the convent of the town": this is because at the time of the Arab conquest of Egypt, the village's ptolemaic temple had been converted into a Christian church. One legend maintains that the inhabitants of the village worshipped Amenhotep I as the founder and protector of the artisans' guild.

The people of Deir al-Madinah were responsible for most of the tombs in the Valleys of the Kings and Queens and the temples of the Theban necropolis. These included the famous tombs of Tutankhamen and Nefertari, and the memorial temples of Ramses II, Amenhotep III, and Hatshepsut – all of which, in their various states of preservation, can still be seen today.

The patron of the village was the cobra-goddess Meretseger, who was said to dwell atop the pyramid-shaped mountain al-Qurn that stands between Deir al-Madinah and the Valley of the Kings. Other deities worshipped in the settlement included Maat, goddess of justice and balance, Thoth, the protector of scribes and painters, and Chnum, the ram-headed god of potters and sculptors.

At its peak, Deir al-Madinah covered 5600 m² and contained some 70 artisans' homes with another 40 or so outside the perimeter wall. The village itself was built around one central avenue, with occasional alleyways leading off. Most of the houses were single-storey, mud brick constructions, although stone was used towards the end of the village's existence. The village was abandoned, and then ransacked, during the Third Intermediate Period that followed the death of Ramses XI at the end of the 20th dynasty.

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Egypt.Ra-Apep.01.jpg
Ra slays Apep (tomb scene in Deir al-Madinah)

The archaeological site was first excavated by Ernesto Schiaparelli (1905-1909) and Bernard Bruyère (1917-1947). Its importance largely lies in the large number of ostraca found there, which provided revolutionary insights into matters of everyday society and economics in the New Kingdom. The site is also noteworthy for a number of tombs belonging to local artisans that have been excavated, the sumptuous decorations of which indicate that the village residents placed no less importance on their own afterlife than on that of their employers.

External links

da:Deir el Medina fr:Deir el-Médineh de:Deir el-Medina

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