This short film made for children examines marriage and the family in ancient Egypt. It focuses on the village of Pa-demi (‘the village’), today known as Deir el-Medina, a settlement founded three and a half thousand years ago to house the workers who built the royal tombs in the nearby ‘Valley of the Kings’.

One of the most important workers was the foreman Kha who worked on several royal tombs in the valley and lived in the village with his wife Meryt c.1400-1360 BC. A great deal is known about everyday life in the village because so many of its inhabitants were literate, they wrote their notes, letters and lists on ‘ostraca’, small pieces of pot or stone found in and around the village itself, the majority discovered in the Great Pit which acted as the village rubbish dump. There were even love songs and love poems which were clearly very popular, while one of these ostraca also refers to ‘bringing the bundle’, in which a man brought his possessions to the family home of the woman he loved in the hope they would impress her enough for her to move to his house and become his wife.

Selection of small votive offerings presented to Hathor discovered during EES excavations at Deir el-Bahari (DB.NEG.05-06.134)

Although very little is known about actual marriage ceremonies in ancient Egypt where couples simply seem to have moved in together, they sometimes gave each other gifts demonstrating their love. This may explain the gold ring buried with Meryt, engraved with the image of a cow representing Hathor, goddess of love to whom women would pray when they wanted children. They would also leave offerings and gifts for Hathor at places like the nearby Deir el-Bahari temple, where Hathor’s image was found on numerous small plaques, amulets and painted linen during the EES’ excavations between 1892 and 1907.

Meryt and Kha themselves had three children together, sons Nakht-ef-ta-neb and Amen-opet and their daughter named Meryt (left, © J. Fletcher) after her mother, as portrayed on objects buried with their parents and on the walls of their small tomb chapel made of mudbrick with brightly painted interior. Built separately some 25m south of the tomb’s subterranean burial chamber, the tomb chapel was the place where these children could come and make offerings to their parents’ souls. Its colourful wall scenes show intimate scenes of their family life, tables piled high with food as musicians serenade them with the kind of music recreated in the film by Prof. Khairy el-Malt and his musicians from the University of Helwan.

In addition to music, Kha and Meryt also enjoyed playing the board game senet, with a wooden senet board complete with pull-out drawer for the gaming pieces found among the 506 objects discovered in their intact tomb in 1906 and today displayed in Turin’s Egyptian Museum.

Play Senet