Deir El Medina is an ancient Egyptian “workers” village near the Valley of the Kings, and it is one of the most informative Ancient Egyptian discoveries ever made.
The village is located just to the south of Egypt’s infamous Valley of the Kings, and the two sites share an incredibly strong historical connection. In the Valley of the Kings one can visit and explore several tombs belonging to some of Egypt’s greatest pharaohs, including the tomb of Ancient Egypt’s most famous pharaoh, King Tutankhamen. Just next door, at Deir El Medina, visitors can explore the village that was once home to all those who were employed to build all those great tombs in the Valley of the Kings.
The discovery of Deir El Medina is considered to be one of the most groundbreaking discoveries ever made in Egypt, and the only one of its kind. No other discovery has provided such a comprehensive understanding of typical community living during the time of the pharaohs.
A Brief History Of Deir El Medina
The village served as a settlement for workers and their families for around 400 hundred years, and was originally called “Set Maat” which translates as The Place of Truth. Those who lived in the village for the purpose of working on the nearby tombs were in turn called Servants in the Place of Truth. Later during the Christian era, a local temple was converted into a church and given the name Deir El Medina which means monastery of the town.
Excavation of the site was already underway when Howard Carter famously discovered the tomb of King Tutankhamen, and this discovery effectively drew media attention away from what was slowly but surely coming to light at Deir El-Medina.
The Significance of the Deir El Medina Discovery
By the time excavation of the site was complete, the world had the most accurately documented account of typical community living, covering a time span of 400 years. Prior to the discovery, most archeologists and historians believed that the great tombs and pyramids were all built using slave labor, but the remains at Deir El Medina told a very different story.
Today, we know that only men worked on the tombs, and rather than being treated as slaves, they were well paid and well looked after. We also know that women stayed at home and took care of chores such and housework, cooking and even beer brewing. Interestingly, men were allowed to take time off from work in order to oversee beer making at home. In fact, records are so accurate that it has become clear that many men actually exploited this kindness and would routinely stay home to make sure their wives made their beer properly.
Historians were also able to establish the fact that there was a solid legal system in place as well, including laws relating to marriage, inheritance and etc. For instance, a wife was entitled to a third of their husband’s wealth if they got divorced or her husband died. If on the other hand she died first, her family would inherit what she was entitled to, rather than it going to her husband.
Total Religious Freedom
The discovery of several small temples and other similar places of worship have also revealed that it was both legal and acceptable for the inhabitants of the city to follow any faith or cult without fear of retribution. In short, the discovery of Deir El Medina has clearly shown that Egyptian society at the time was well organized; well structured, and above all, sophisticated.
Many Egyptian travel packages include a visit to the Valley of Kings since it’s one of the country’s most notorious attractions, but quite often; these Egypt tours fail to include a visit to this remarkably ancient village that has revealed so many secrets. Deir El Medina is a remarkable place to visit and its convenient location makes it an ideal addition to any Nile cruise package.