In order to understand the North Village better, after work yesterday, we took a field trip to see Deir el-Medina, another village for workmen of the New Kingdom that is just north of Malqata. Deir el-Medina, however, is much larger and better preserved than our site. It was home to the artisans who built and decorated the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, and was called Set Maat -”The Place of Truth.” The village and its surrounding cemeteries were excavated by the French Archaeological Institute under the direction of Bernard Bruyère from 1922 to1951. More recently Domonique Valbelle and Charles Bonnet re-investigated the site to better understand the construction phases.
Deir el-Medina is very well preserved, being out in the desert and built of stone rubble as well as mud brick. It is in a small valley surrounded by hills and, like the North Village, it was surrounded by an enclosure wall.
Deir el-Medina appears to have been founded in the early Eighteenth Dynasty and continued to function until the end of the Ramesside Period – about 500 years. This is far longer than the few decades that North Village at Malqata was inhabited. The community at Deir el-Median grew over time and ultimately had about sixty-eight houses. The sizes and plans of the houses varied, but all were fairly small, like the North Village structures. The house walls were made of mud brick, built on top of stone rubble foundations and covered with mud plaster, which was white washed or painted in colors. A typical house had four to five rooms: an entrance, a main room, two smaller rooms, a kitchen with a cellar below, and a staircase leading to the roof. The house reamined cool in the summer and warm in the winter by placing the windows high up on the walls. There were also household shrines consisting of a mud brick platform with a small flight of steps. The houses were grouped along a main road that led through the village, and led to some side streets as well. The plan of the town changed as the population grew over time.
The tombs built by the workmen for themselves had small rock-cut chapels and burial chambers and were capped by small mud brick pyramids.
The workers could walk over the hills to the Valley of the Kings. They seem to have had a pretty god life and when they were not paid on time, they went on strike!