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New Kingdom

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Thutmose III
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dier el-medina


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Deir el Medina

The workers village housed several hundred artists who were employed in the Valley of the Kings during the New Kingdom. They and their families lived here in small mudbrick houses for generations -- each generation learning the craft from his father and working on the tombs of the pharaohs.

There is little left of the village except the foundations and narrow streets. It is like a labyrinth of tiny cubicles, but desriptions of the village say that it was comfortable and prosperous.

It was guarded of course -- not so much to keep epople out, but to ensure that the workers who knew the secrets of the tombs in the earby valley would not leave. Even though the workers here were technically prisoners of the state, they were well paid and provided for. It was considered a great honor to be selected to work on the tombs and temples of the pharaoh, so there is no reason to believe that they resented their isolation here.

Of course, all the precuations did little ot protect the tommbs and treasures of the pharaohs. THey were looted and robbed often within months of being sealed -- obviously an inside job. Either the workers were passing information to their cohorts, or the guards were making a bit extra on the side by looting the tombs.

Of course, during the 20th Dynasty, Egypt had severe economic problems (the inundation of the Nile faild and famine swept across the country) and the workers were not paid their customary beer, onions, wheat, and meat or fish. In retaliation, they staged a strike and demonstrated in Luxor and Medinet Habu until they were paid.

Nearby the village is what appears to be a sinkhole, but our guide told us it was probably the "garbage pit" for the village. It is being excavated and they are finding many pottery shards and household implements.

It's really interesting to walk around here and imagine what the village looked like in its heyday. Cooking fires and women doing laundry and children playing in the courtyards inside the houses. It would have been colorful -- a far cry from the pale, monochromatic sand that has engulfed it now.


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