The village of Deir el-Medina is situated in Upper Egypt near Thebes and Luxor, on the west bank of the Nile. The typical New Kingdom village was predominately agricultural and contained a wide range of skilled and non-skilled workers, including farmers, fishermen and labourers. By contrast, Deir el-Medina was built to house only one group of people: the skilled workers who built and decorated the royal tombs. The community included the workmen, their wives, children and other relatives, together with people such as water-carriers, gardeners, potters and basket-markers who catered for the needs of the workmen and their families.
Through the aspects of the intellect within Deir el-Medina, the workers and their families were not slaves but free citizens with recourse to the justice system as required. The community had its own court of law made up of a foreman, deputies, craftsmen and a court scribe, and were authorised to deal with all civil and some criminal cases. The local police, Medjay, were responsible for preserving law and order as well as controlling access to the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. The houses were all built to a similar plan from mudbricks, usually with four small rooms, an internal staircase leading to a terrace or upper room and sometimes a cellar. The platform would often be decorated with depictions of the God Bes, who was associated with childbirth as well as being a household God. The main room was lit by high clerestory windows and this room had a low raised platform and stelae dedicated to ancestor cults and to Meretseger, Goddess of the Theban necropolis.
Valuable archaeological evidence is provided by houses, tombs and other structures, a large body of written evidence, including personal letters and other documents of the inhabitants, has also survived. With this information, it has been possible to gain some valuable insights into the lives of the workers and their...
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