Thursday,18 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1375, (4-10 January 2018)
Thursday,18 April, 2019
Issue 1375, (4-10 January 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Artisan work on display

The work of artisans from the ancient site of Deir Al-Medina is on display in a special exhibition at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square 

El-Enany and Stephane at the exhibition

Visitors to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo’s Tahrir Square can enjoy a distinguished temporary exhibition over the next two months displaying artworks by the Deir Al-Medina artisans who once carved and decorated the New Kingdom royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings on the west bank of the Nile at Luxor reports Nevine El-Aref. 

The Deir Al-Medina area is an exceptional archaeological site on Luxor’s west bank displaying the residential houses and necropolis of those working on the royal tombs along with their rich artefacts.

The Cairo exhibition was inaugurated last week by Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany and French Ambassador to Egypt Stéphane Roumtier and will last until mid-February. It highlights a century of French excavations, research and study in Deir Al-Medina by displaying for the first time a collection of 52 objects unearthed or previously stored in the Egyptian Museum but never put on show before along with documents and photographs from the archives of the Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale (IFAO) in Cairo. 

It was conceived in partnership between the Ministry of Antiquities, the University of Paul-Valery, Montpellier III, in France, and the IFAO. 

Head of the Museums Sector at the ministry Elham Salah told Al-Ahram Weekly that the artefacts reflected the daily lives, faith and funerary rituals of the Deir Al-Medina workmen. Among the most important objects are a statue of Sennedjem, lintels from the tombs of the Pharaohs Amenhotep I and II, and painted limestone ostraca (limestone or clay fragments).

The exhibition is divided into three sections. The first covers aspects of the royal tomb builders’ daily lives, including leisure, literature, craft practices and their relationships to power. “The daily lives of the craftsmen and their families became familiar to us thanks to the discovery of their village, which was excavated by French archaeologist Bernard Bruyère in 1934-35,” said exhibition organiser Hanane Gaber. 

an ostraca

She said that Bruyère had meticulously reconstructed the layouts of the houses and their architectural elements and had copied the hieroglyphic texts found within them. The dexterity of these workers is reflected in the quality of their funerary objects, and the Deir Al-Medina sculptors’ skill is illustrated by the fineness of the Sennedjem statuette.

During their leisure time, Gaber said, the artisans drew freely on ostraca. Some of these drawings are satirical, as in the case of an ostraca in the exhibition depicting a cat assuming the surprising role of a goose-keeper, or another showing a monkey imitating the attitude of a scribe.

The second section of the exhibition is devoted to religious and funerary practices. These are known through paintings on tomb walls and the rich funerary furniture uncovered inside the tombs of Kha and Sennedjem and in certain burials in the eastern cemetery at Deir Al-Medina. Bruyère uncovered several coffins, the most beautiful being that of a woman called Noub.

A relief

Besides the god Amun and his triad of official deities, several other gods and goddesses were worshiped at Deir Al-Medina, such as Ptah and Meretseger as well as others from Egyptian provinces such as Khnum, Satis and Anukis from Elephantine near Aswan. The artisans also worshipped the Pharaohs themselves, and among these Amenhotep I and his mother are particularly prominent. 

A coffin

A lintel from the temple of Ramses II at Deir Al-Medina showing the Pharaohs Amenhotep I and II, each venerating a sphinx representing the god Amun-Re, is on display. “It is likely that Ramses II had this lintel carved to honour the two dead kings,” Elham said.

The third section illustrates the excavation work and research at the site. It gathers documents from the IFAO showing the evolution of the excavations, the current work of preservation, and some examples of work in progress. Videos showing the excavation work at Deir Al-Medina from Bruyère until today are also on show along with a 3D digital model of the site itself.

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