Deir El Medina is one of the interesting historical sites in Luxor that is commonly missed by most tourists who instead get attracted by other famous ancient areas in the West Bank of Luxor like the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens, and the charming temple of Hatshepsut.
Situated in a valley at the foot of the Theban Mountain, Deir El Medina was the home of the artists, craftsmen, and workers who created, built, and ornamented the royal and private tombs of the Kings and Queens of Egypt, which dazzled the whole world when they were discovered.
Situated a short distance away from the Valley of the Queens, to the West of the Hill of El Khokha, Deir El Medina is one of the hidden treasures of the city of Luxor. It is rarely visited by tourists, but it's amazing to see and definitely worth your time!
The Name Deir El-Medina
In Arabic, Deir El Medina means "the monastery of the city," most probably referring to the fact that this ancient historical site was transformed into a Christian worship center during the Coptic period in Egypt, just like the Temple of Hatshepsut (which was called El Deir El Bahry, or "the Monastery of the North.")
Inhabitants Of Deir El-Medina
The ancient Egyptian name of Deir El Medina was "ta set Maat," which means "the place of reality." This town was constructed to host the workers and the artists who built royal and private tombs on the Western Bank of Luxor.
The workers and artists who lived in Deir El Medina were divided into two squads, and each team used to work for eight hours a day and had the right to take two days off every eight days of working. Supervised by a headman, each squad used to consist of 15 to 30 individuals who worked at the same time on both sides of the tomb, digging with hammers and bronze grave digging implements.
As the builders started working their way into the mountain, the other workers would trim and smooth out the walls. They would add a layer of a mixture of calcareous sand, clay, and straw and then another layer of plaster mixed with water.
After the preparation of the walls was completed, the artists would begin their work drawing on the walls with red ocher, and then afterward, they would make the corrections needed using black chalk.
After the drawing is done, it would be time for the sculptures that would carve the mixture used in the first phase into bas-reliefs. Then it would be the turn of the decorators, who would color the bas-reliefs with different paints.
Some of these paints and colors were natural, like the ones derived from ground rocks from the mountains, while others were artificially made, like the popular ancient Egyptian blue color, which was manufactured by heating copper with sand and alkali.
This means that while the diggers were still working in the innermost part of the tomb, other sections of the tomb located close to the mountains were already completed and finished by other workers. Following this approach, the ancient Egyptian builders and workers succeeded in constructing tombs, rather small, but they were able to complete a tomb only in a few months' time, which is very impressive.
The Tombs of Deir El Medina
Behind the town of Deir El Medina, situated on the slopes of the mountains, the workers and artists who once lived in the town constructed their own tombs where they were buried near their greatest achievements. These tombs, much smaller than those of the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens, were nevertheless quite elegant. They consisted of a cult chapel with the entrance ornamented with a mud-brick pyramid and a burial chamber that was decorated with charming paintings.
The Tombs of Inerkhau
Inerkhau, the headman of the lord of the two lands in the place of the truth during the reign of Ramses III and Ramses VI, had his tomb constructed in the tombs of Deir El Medina, which are featured with paintings illustrating passages from the Book of the Dead.
The tomb of Inerkhau was unearthed in the middle of the 19th century by the famous German archeologist Richard Lepsuis. Lepsuis removed two paintings that were inside the tomb of Amenophis and his wife, and they are now on display in the Museum of Berlin.
A vestibule which was originally rich with different paintings precedes the burial chamber. Most of the paintings and decoration works of the tomb are inspired by the Book of the Dead, the most important manuscript of the burial rituals and the underworld of ancient Egypt. However, there are also some scenes of the daily life of Inerkhau portrayed on the west wall of the burial chamber. This painting displays the owner of the tomb Inerkhau in some sort of a family portrait gathering with his wife and his four children.
On the back wall of the burial chamber, there is a scene of Inerkhau accompanied by his two daughters presenting offerings to Osiris and Ptah, the two most important gods of the reign of the New Kingdom of ancient Egypt.
On the west walls, there are also around 16 smaller scenes related to the Book of the Dead. The scenes include the cat of Heliopolis killing the Apophis under the Ished tree, a musician playing on the harp for Inerkhau and his wife, and a scene of Inerkhau being taken to the god Osiris by the god Thoth.
The Tomb Of Sennedjem
An artist who lived in the reign of Sethos I and Ramses II, the tomb of Sennedjem is among the most famous tombs in the Necropolis of Deir El Medina because the tomb was finely preserved when it was discovered to the extent that the paintings seem as if they were completed only a few years ago.
Sennedjem had the title of the servant of the place of the truth, and his tomb was discovered in 1886 when the archeologists found an intact burial chamber and a large collection of funerary equipment that was transformed to be exhibited in the Egyptian Museum. The burial chamber is fully covered with paintings that date back to the style common during the reign of the dynasty Ramses which is based mainly on displaying the life of the deceased in the afterlife.
On the right hand of the entrance to the burial chamber, there is a painting that shows Sennedjem and his wife before entering into the kingdom of Osiris in the afterlife, which is a famous scene from the Book of the Dead. On the other hand, there is a scene of Sennedjem in his daily life, and above this scene, the owner of the tomb is already mummified and protected by the god Isis in the form of a falcon.