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Work Reconstruction of a tomb from the eastern cemetery of Deir el-Medina (hill of Qurnet Murai)

Department of Egyptian Antiquities: Religious and funerary beliefs

Cercueil d'une femme

© R.M.N./F. Raux

Egyptian Antiquities
Religious and funerary beliefs

Author(s):
Rigault Patricia

This vitrine displays a selection of grave goods found in the tombs of the western cemetery of the hill of Qurnet Murai (near the site of Deir el-Medina), excavated from 1933 by the French archaeologist Bernard Bruyère. These tombs date from the early 18th Dynasty. Although they belonged to a class that was modest if not poor, they contained a wealth of material: everyday objects that had been used by the owners during their lifetime.

The contents of a tomb in the early 18th Dynasty: the coffin

During this period, a typical middle class tomb contained a coffin in which the mummy was placed. The coffins found in this cemetery form a homogenous group: rarely very elaborate, they are generally rectangular or anthropoid in shape, and decorated with bright colors on a white background. The one displayed here belonged to a woman whose name we do not know. The box is adorned with panels containing (clumsily traced) udjat eyes - symbols of physical integrity - together with two images of the god Anubis portrayed as a recumbent dog, and characters that have never really been identified (due to the absence of inscriptions). The convex lid is decorated with an attractive multicolored check pattern.

Other items in the tomb: everyday objects

Most of the objects that accompanied the deceased into the cemetery were everyday items of practical use. Wickerwork baskets or chests contained toiletry articles such as unguent pots, kohl sticks, pots of rouge, wooden or ivory combs, hairpins, razors, and often mirrors like the one belonging to the lady Madja (another occupant of this cemetery, whose beautiful coffin can be admired in Room 14). There might also be receptacles carved from hollowed-out bovid horns, closed with wooden stoppers. Pieces of furniture featured too: beds, chests, chairs, stools, bedheads, and mats. There was plentiful crockery, with stone or terracotta vases, cups, plates, and bowls, still containing the remains of food and liquid. Pieces of fabric were included too, together with clothing, sandals, jewelry, tools, and musical instruments such as the lyre displayed here. A statue of the deceased might also be placed in the tomb.

The site of Deir el-Medina, and Bernard Bruyère's excavations

From 1922 to 1951, this major site was meticulously excavated and studied by Bernard Bruyère, who published the results of his work annually. It is located in the hollow of a small desert valley in the Theban mountains, and is particularly interesting in that it conserves important traces of the village and tombs of the workers who constructed and decorated the royal tombs in the Valleys of the Kings and Queens during the New Kingdom. The archaeological data and exceptional material collected from this site constitute a hitherto unequalled source of information. The funerary material exhibited here comes from the "Eastern cemetery", on the western slope of the hill of Qurnet Murai (which borders the site of Deir el-Medina to the east). Its occupants, however, do not appear to have belonged to the community of tomb workers - there are no inscriptions or titles that could confirm such a hypothesis.

Bibliography

Les Artistes de Pharaon, Deir el Médineh et la Vallée des Rois , catalogues d’exposition, Louvre/Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, Paris, 2002.

- La vie quotidienne chez les artisans de Pharaon , Metz, 1978.

- Deir el Médineh  et la Vallée des Rois, Actes du Colloque, Paris, 2003, p. 49-65.

Technical description

  • Cercueil d'une femme

  • bois peint

    H. : 0,77 m. ; l. : 1,90 m. ; L. : 0,47 m.

  • E 14544

  • Egyptian Antiquities

    Sully wing
    Ground floor
    Tombs
    Room 320
    Vitrine 4 : Au Nouvel Empire, le cimetière de Gournet Mourraï ouest, vers 1450 avant J.-C.

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