Young Explorers' Club

This short film made for children looks at daily life in ancient Egypt. It is set in ‘Pa-demi’, which means ‘the village’ in the ancient Egyptian language although the modern Arabic name for the site is Deir el-Medina.

The ancient village of Pa-demi now known as Deir el-Medina © J. Fletcher

This settlement was established three and a half thousand years ago c.1500 BC in Thebes (modern Luxor) to provide homes for the workers who built the royal tombs in the nearby ‘Valley of the Kings’. One of the most important of these workers was Kha, an architect and foreman who worked on three royal tombs in the valley c.1400-1360 BC, and lived in the village with his wife Meryt, a housewife, and their three children. Like all their neighbours, their home had walls of stone topped with mud brick, plastered and whitewashed on the outside and painted bright colours on the inside. Small windows set high up let in cooling breezes as well as light, and the rooms within featured built-in platforms acting as seating, with the additional use of wooden chairs, stools, storage chests and beds complete with linen sheets. The kitchen at the back of the house had an open roof to allow smoke to escape from cooking food and from baking the bread still made the same way in Egyptian villages today. Kha and Meryt would have eaten such bread together with vegetables, fruit, meat and fish, various spices and seasonings, plus home-brewed beer and the wine they enjoyed as wealthier villagers. Although the village did not have its own well, water was brought in each day by donkey, used for both drinking and for bathing using large metal jugs and bowls - some villagers like Kha and Meryt even had specially-made seat-like toilets made of wood.

Kha and Meryt’s belongings in the Egyptian Museum Turin © Lion Television

Another important part of daily life was the application of moisturizing oils and cosmetics, with men and women alike wearing black eye make-up (‘kohl’) in order to keep away the flies which transmitted eye infections while also reducing the glare of the sun (rather like ancient sunglasses). Both Kha and Meryt also used small combs to keep their hair neat and free of headlice eggs (nits), some people keeping their own hair short but wearing a long wig of human hair like the one owned by Meryt, complete with its own storage box (read more). Meryt's wig is one of 506 objects eventually buried with the couple, everything from their furniture and food to their clothes and toilet. This was because the Egyptians believed that at death the soul lived on in the afterlife so would still need such things from everyday life. So when Kha and Meryt's tomb was discovered by Italian archaeologists in 1906, they also found all their belongings,  now displayed in the Egyptian Museum in Turin and allowing us to see for ourselves how this very special couple lived their lives 

Meryt’s cosmetic chest and combs alongside the couple’s toilet now in the Egyptian Museum Turin © J. Fletcher

Selection of food and drink from the tomb of Kha and Meryt now in the Egyptian Museum Turin © J. Fletcher

If you'd like to read more about the archaeology of Deir el-Medina then have a read of this article by Dr Cédric Gobeil here.