The Village of the Tomb Builders
Deir el-Medina is a small settlement 2 km west of the Nile. Believe me, it is little known in the traditional tourism rat race which takes place daily on the Westbank, but it is one of the most phenomenal archaeological sites of ancient Thebes. It was home to the workers of the royal necropolis and might be viewed as a microcosm of life in Ancient Egypt even although the workers were at the ’top’ of their profession. The ancient name of the site was Set Maat, ’the Place of Truth’ and the workmen were ‘servants’ in the Place of Truth. The community seems to have been established near the beginning of the 18th Dynasty, at least by the reign of Tuthmosis I (whose name has been found on bricks in the walls surrounding the village) or perhaps a few years earlier – since the villagers through many generations held Amenhotep I, and his mother Queen Ahmose Nefertari, in high esteem (maybe as patrons). From research, over the last century, we know much about these people, how they lived and where they were buried and what they owned. Many finds were removed in the free-for-all of previous centuries and pieces are found in nearly every major museum around the world. It is ironic that more is known about the workmen who cut the New Kingdom tombs than we do about the kings who commissioned them. In their spare time, they build their own dwelling for the afterlife. Two are available to visit. It is a bit of a tricky descent and it’s rather claustrophobic down there but it really worths the little adventure. The decorations are amongst the most beautiful in Egypt.