Empathetic diary entries of a Deir El-Medina tomb worker. Includes information of both high and household ancient Egyptian gods as well as everyday life.

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9th day of the 2nd month

What a wonderful day in this glorious town of Deir el-Median, high on the West Bank of the Nile where we skilled tomb workers live. I prayed to the goddesses Tawaret, Hathor and Amun today that the birth of my third child would be as successful as the others, for it is there shall be much happiness and music within our home.

On coming home this evening, I could hear the yelling of my wife in childbirth., I paused to kiss the image of Bes, god of hearth, as I entered the front room and ran up the stairs to the roof where my mother sat reciting incantations to the seven Hathors who preside over the birth. My other 2 sons also sat with her making offerings to Selket, helper of women in childbirth.

My wife was squatted over the two bricks that her feet were balanced on, supported by a midwife on the hastily erected reed hut. Crushed poppy seed was given to her to alleviate the pain of giving birth.

The north wind blew, indicating Hathors favour. I thanked the goddess silently for having watched over my wife. This is indeed a very lucky day for us, my son being born on the ninth day of the second month of Akhet - he will die of old age.

My newborn was washed with warm water and the umbilical cord cut with an obsidian knife. In keeping with our custom we kept the placenta as it is the spiritual twin of our newly born son.

His head will soon be shaved like that of his two older brothers, Ibi and Karem, only leaving a side lock. This will then be cut off at the age of 11, that is, when he immediately passes into adulthood.

My wife and three sons will undoubtedly be well provided for not only in the present, but well into the future. My sons will each learn my trade, a painter, as I am currently the head painter. I create beauty that is to be seen only by the dead. Is this an honour? Or a curse, I sometimes wonder?

Our marriage has been very blessed, with my wife surviving three successful childbirths. With the blessings of the gods we will live another 10-12 years to the ripe old age of 35years. And so hopefully will my sons.

11thday of the 2nd month

The sun shone very brightly today, praise be to Nut, Geb and especially to the Sun God, Ra.

I have been working on the tomb of Rameses lX for 3 years. We work in two gangs, each consisting of 30 people. One gang works on the east side, the other on the west. The work has been carried on in great secrecy so as to deter grave robbers.

Inside the tomb is exceedingly dark, so the plastering of the walls, drawing and subsequent painting - of which I complete - has to be illuminated by copper reflectors which channel the sunlight. We also use oil lamps.

Due to the amount of dust within the tomb I often suffer from bouts of coughing and of late have noticed that my eyes are beginning to ache. I sometimes add salt to the oil in the lamps to reduce the smoke so my eyes do not hurt as much. My poor friend Inmet has suffered failing eyesight for some time and has experienced a number of treatments including a lotion of honey and ochre applied to the eyes with a vultures quill as a dropper. This often helps, he tells me.

We here in Deir el-Medina are a close knit community with a great sense of camaraderie. We often have guests over for small feasts, Inmet and his wife shared dinner with us only 4 eves ago.

My employment with the king's tomb will be passed on to my sons to whom I am teaching my trade - that of a painter.

The plasterers cover the walls of rock with a smooth surface for the designers to draw the scene that will entertain the dead in the afterlife. We painters then colour the scenes and bring them to life. The chamber is brightly coloured with lively scenes such as that of religious texts and depictions of the gods and the Field of Yaru.

We are paid well, usually on the 28th day of each month, receiving grains, vegetables, fish and wood for fuel as payment. While we work reasonable hours and are...
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