You Established the Sky, You Illuminated It with Light

Sacredness at Deir el-Medina
International Conference | March 14-15, 2024 - Florence, Italy

Introduction



The International Conference “You Established the Sky, You Illuminated It with Light: Sacredness at Deir el-Medina” aims to gather scholars from all over the world to rethink the role of religion in one of the central settlements of New Kingdom Egypt: Deir el-Medina.

Deir el-Medina is a pivotal site in Egyptology, and a major case-study in the inquiry of the importance of religious beliefs for ancient Egyptians. Because of the uniqueness of this settlement, the central theme of the conference could be easily interpreted in various different ways, by aiming attention at a specific facet of the spiritual and devout sentiment, or considering religiosity from a multi- and/or interdisciplinary approach.

In fact, rethinking the part played by religion in a fundamental context like the one of Deir el-Medina implies the necessity to examine and investigate the topic from different angles, in order to offer a new and still unexplored perspective on such a critical subject.

 

Topics

We welcome abstracts (both for presentations and posters) on all aspects of sacredness and religion at Deir el-Medina, including but not limited to:
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  • Historical analysis of the development of religion over the Deir el-Medina timeline, examining the ways in which it has changed and evolved in response to social, political, and cultural factors, starting from the analysis of primary sources such as religious texts, artifacts, and historical accounts.
 
  • Anthropological analysis of the beliefs, practices, and cultural norms of religion at Deir el-Medina by observing its adherents in their daily lives to gain a deep understanding of how religion functions in a particular society.
 
  • Sociological analysis of the social structures and dynamics of religion, including the ways in which it creates social cohesion, reinforces power structures, and shapes individual identity, analyzing patterns of behavior and belief within Deir el-Medina religious community.
 
  • Comparative analysis of different religious traditions in order to identify similarities and differences, universal themes and concepts that underlie religious belief and practice across different historical periods at Deir el-Medina.
 
  • Psychological analysis of the ways in which religion affects individuals on a personal level, including the psychological benefits and drawbacks of religious belief and practice.

Information


International Conference

You Established the Sky, You Illuminated It with Light
SACREDNESS AT DEIR EL-MEDINA”


March 14-15, 2024
Florence (Italy)


 
 
 
 
THE CONFERENCE IS ORGANIZED BY
CAMNES
(Center for Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Studies)

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SCIENTIFIC COORDINATION & ORGANIZATION (in alphabetic order)
Massimiliano Franci (CAMNES)
Irene Morfini (CAMNES)
Valentina Santini (CAMNES)

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KEYNOTE ADDRESS
Rob Demarée (Universiteit Leiden)
"The Impact of Nature and Environment on Religious Experience in the Ramesside Community of Deir el-Medina"

 
REGISTRATION
Registration fees (must be paid after abstract acceptance):
 
  • SPEAKER: 130€
  • LISTENER: 80€
  • COMPANION (SOCIAL EVENT ONLY): 50€
​​
The fee includes:
 
  • Badge (Speakers and Listeners only)
  • Conference welcome kit (Speakers and Listeners only)
  • Morning and afternoon coffee breaks (Speakers and Listeners only)
  • Conference dinner 
  • Option to submit a paper for the Proceedings (Speakers only)
 
Further details:
The official language of the Conference is English.
Abstracts should not exceed 300 words.
The Conference will provide a 20-minute presentation format, followed by 10 minutes of questions.
All paper authors must register if they are planning to participate in the Conference.
At least one author for each paper must register and be present during the Conference.
Please note that the registration fee does not include any lunch, travel, transportation to the workshop venue, and accommodation.
 
PROCEEDINGS
All speakers may submit their paper for evaluation after the Conference. If the paper will be accepted, it will be included in the Proceedings of the Conference and published in a volume of the CAMNES SANEM series (Arbor Sapientiae). Indications for the Proceedings guidelines will be sent to the authors after the Conference. 
 

IMPORTANT DATES
  • Abstract submission deadline: September 30, 2023
  • Acceptance notification by: October 31, 2023
  • Opening of registration: October 31, 2023
  • Abstracts publication: October 31, 2023
  • Registration and fee payment by: January 31, 2024​​​
  • Poster submission deadline: February 2, 2024
  • Final program publication: February 5, 2024
  • International Conference: March 14-15, 2024
 
For further information, please contact us at

Registration (now closed)


Program Schedule

THURSDAY 14 MARCH 2024
9.00-9.30 Registration
9.30-11.00
 Opening Session
 
WELCOMING REMARKS
Guido Guarducci & Stefano Valentini (CAMNES)
INTRODUCTION
Massimiliano Franci, Irene Morfini, Valentina Santini (CAMNES) 
KEYNOTE LECTURE
Rob Demarée (Universiteit Leiden)
"The Impact of Nature and Environment on Religious Experience in the Ramesside Community of Deir el-Medina"
11.00-11.30 Coffee break
11.30-13.00

 Session 1: Temple and Chapels
chair: TBA   
Cédric Gobeil (Museo Egizio)
A votive chapel to (Amun)-Min at Deir el-Medina? A reassessment
Ahmed Altaher (Centre franco-égyptien d'étude des temples de Karnak - CFEETK/MoTA)
Graffiti between individual and official practice: A case study of graffito depicting Hathor at the temple of Deir el-Medina
Aliénor Marie Roussel (Sorbonne Université Lettres)
The Non-Funerary Chapels of Deir el-Medina: A Structural Typology
13.00-14.00 Lunch break
14.00-15.30

 Session 2: Interdisciplinarity
chair: TBA  
Anna Giulia De Marco, Lisa Sartini (Medjehu Project), Gersande Eschenbrenner-Diemer (Universidad de Alcalá)
Sacredness and ritual practices of craftsmen: The case study of carpentry in Deir el-Medina during the New Kingdom
Valentina Santini (CAMNES; University of Birmingham)
Strike the Pose: Bereavement Gestures in Deir el-Medina Tomb Wall Decorations from a Psychological Standpoint
Mennah Aly (The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities)
If god is angry, it is my fault: Perceiving the Divine through the Lenses of Deir el-Medina Villagers
15.30-16.00 Coffee break
16.00-18.00

 Session 3: Statues and Stelae
chair: TBA  
Irene Morfini (CAMNES)
Haroeris and Pay: a Deir el-Medina stela in the basement of the National Museum of Accra (Ghana)
Gehad Bakr (Faculty of Tourism and Hotels, Minia University)
Of course, it was made in Deir el-Medina: Deir el-Medina stelae workshops between similarities and discrepancies
David Brügger (University of Oxford)
Between Pious Pressure and Artistic Ambition: The Private Theophorous Statues of Deir el-Medina
Tadas Rutkauskas (Department of History, Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas - Lithuania)
Between offence and reproach: constructing the concept of sin in the texts from Deir el-Medina
19.45
Dinner at Mercato Centrale
Piazza del Mercato Centrale, via dell'Ariento, 50123, Florence
 
FRIDAY 15 MARCH 2024
9.00-11.00

 Session 4: Meeting the Divine
chair: TBA  
Iria Souto Castro (University of Vigo; Universität Trier)
Ancestors’ veneration in Deir el-Medina houses
Julie Masquelier-Loorius (CNRS Sorbonne Université)
Beyond beliefs: Opening the door(s), and Housing the Gods. Worship and rituals in houses, and houses of eternity in the Place of Truth through the study of door parts
Ikram Ghabriel (Independent Researcher)
Some Remarks on Ptah’s Worship at Deir el-Medina
Massimiliano Franci (CAMNES)
Religion at Deir el Medina: An analysis from within
11.00-11.30 Coffee break
11.30-13.00

 Session 5: Women and Gender Studies
chair: TBA  
Deborah Sweeney (Tel Aviv University)
Gender and worship in the sacred landscape around Deir el-Medîna
Sabrina Ceruti (Independent Researcher; Civic Archaeological Museum of Milan, Egyptian Department: consultant)
The hippopotamus goddess Taweret at Deir el-Medina: A reappraisal
Sandrine Vuilleumier (University of Basel)
Divine Feminine at Deir el-Medina? Permanence and Evolution of the Perception of the Sacredness of Local Goddesses
13.00-14.00 Lunch break
14.00-16.00

 Session 6: Tombs and Death
chair: TBA  
Jessica Johnson (University of California Berkeley; University of Basel)
Hold the Line: The Iconographic and Spatial Role of Gate Guardian Demons in Deir el-Medina Tombs
Anastasija Golijewskaja (University of Warsaw)
Solar representations in the tombs of Deir el-Medina
Marina Sartori (University of Oxford)
A family ceremony: Adoring Osiris in 18th dynasty Deir el-Medina
Mykola Tarasenko (Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Oxford)
Draughtsmen" of Deir el-Medina and the Book of the Dead
16.00-16.30 Coffee break
16.30
 General Discussion and Concluding Remarks  
END OF CONFERENCE

Paper abstracts


Ahmed Altaher
Centre franco-égyptien d'étude des temples de Karnak - CFEETK MoTA
 
Graffiti between individual and official practice: A case study of graffito depicting Hathor at the temple of Deir el-Medina

The Deir el-Medina site is distinguished by the richness and diversity of its graffiti. Its practice was a common custom among workers. The graffiti varied between those that took an Official character, from graffiti for inspection or to commemorate the visit of an official and those that were individuals to commemorate their presence in front of the deities of the cemetery of Thebes. It was divided into graffiti made by Deir el-Medina workers or by people who visited that sacred Western Mountain. Graffiti appears in different places at Deir el-Medina, weather in the village and in the religious/funerary area. It is connected to different categories of space, with different levels of access. In the temple, the history of graffiti was consistent with the history of the temple, and most of the graffiti left there was in Demotic. Distinguished among the temple's graffiti is a graffiti executed on the wall of the staircases leading to the roof of the temple, which depicts the goddess Hathor with an accompanying individual text. The graffiti was executed in bas-relief in an elaborate manner that parallels the official reliefs of that time. Graffiti constituted one of the means of self-presentation in the temple. Writing an individual message or figure on a temple wall was a method of self-introduction and explanation of a personal relationship to deities that was less expensive, progressively open, and more immediate than conventional types of presentation such as stelae, ostraca, and statues. This paper aims to investigate the motives that made this graffiti distinctive and place it within the broader context of the practice of graffiti in the temple in an attempt to focus on the space in which it was carved, and the extent of the importance of practicing graffiti in a temple where worship is still performed.
 

Mennah Aly
The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities
 
If god is angry, it is my fault: Perceiving the Divine through the Lenses of Deir el-Medina Villagers
 
Throughout all the eras of the ancient Egyptian civilisation, the Egyptians are well-known by their piety shown in the extensive evidence of religious texts and artefacts that signify their devotion to their divinities. The workmen’s village of Deir el-Medina is one of those settlements from which a very rich corpora of religious material is retrieved to indicate the position and role of religion in a community. According to the various testimonies that arrived to us from Deir el-Medina, either from the public cult places or houses, the villagers had strong personal relationships with their deities whom were believed to be benevolent, kind, generous as well as responsive to prayers and petitions. Nevertheless, there are cases where the workmen had attributed a state of misery they ended up with to certain gods, which was, off course, a punitive response to sins they had committed. Through analysing examples of religious and everyday texts from Deir el-Medina, the research examines the perception of the villagers about their divinities and how they had comprehended their punitive aspect. From sociological and psychological perspectives, the paper investigates how the perception of the workers of Deir el-Medina about their deities would define their code of ethics, afterlife conceptions as well as the way they had viewed their own selves.

 
 
Gehad Bakr
Faculty of Tourism and Hotels, Minia University
 
Of course, it was made in Deir el-Medina: Deir el-Medina stelae workshops between similarities and discrepancies
 
Workshops of Deir el-Medina enjoyed astonishing techniques and methods in commissioning private stelae as evidenced in a large corpus of New Kingdom votive Stelae, housing in several Museums such as Cairo Egyptian Museum, Turin Museum, Berlin Museum, and others. The votive stelae express personal piety, defined as individuals’ adoration of their close deities without intermediaries such as kings or priests. These stelae are generally understood as personal donations expressing devotion to a deity, asking or thanking them for benefits or healing. A stelae corpus is surveyed and selected for studying the distinct artistic workshop patterns of Deir el-Medina, numbered 34 stelae. These studied stelae were originally erected in the Hathor temple, Ramesses II’s sanctuary, and the Ramesside chapels north of the Ptolemaic enclosure at Deir el-Medina Village. The primary objectives of this research are to tackle the stylistic variations of Deir el-Medina workshops, to define the suggested definition of” the artistic identity marks,” to analyze the compositional patterns of Deir el-Medina stelae, and finally, to establish artistic criteria for Deir el-Medina workshops if possible. The article’s methodology will be achieved by describing the stelae corpus, and a complete analysis will be undertaken to assess the aims outlined above using existing primary publications, old catalogues, and excavation reports to examine and define the corpus.

 
 
David Brügger
University of Oxford
 
Between Pious Pressure and Artistic Ambition: The Private Theophorous Statues of Deir el-Medina
 
The approach to ancient Egyptian statuary is often focused on individual examples, typological studies, or art historical considerations, admittedly hindered by the lack of evidence inherent to portable, looted antiquities. In contrast, statues from the New Kingdom artists’ village of Deir el-Medina come with an exceptionally rich archaeological context, and yet, its globally dispersed corpus has not been consolidated, let alone analysed as a whole. Emerging from an ongoing research dedicated to advancing the understanding of the private statuary practice in Deir el-Medina’s environment by regrouping and recontextualising the artefacts, a small, but remarkably diverse and innovative group of theophorous statues reveal intriguing insights. Beyond material analysis, archaeological, visual, and textual evidence show villagers designing, exchanging, and using statues not only for their religious effect, but also for artistic differentiation. Moreover, a case study, enriched by contextual data, will illustrate a practice of three-dimensional self-presentation blending religious, economic, social, and artistic motivations. If the research’s results underline how particular private statue conceptualisation among artists may have been, they also offer insights into commission, production, transaction, use, and reuse which are potentially transferable to other statues and sites.

 
 
Sabrina Ceruti
Independent researcher; Civic Archaeological Museum of Milan, Egyptian Department: scientific consultant
 
The hippopotamus goddess Taweret at Deir el-Medina: A reappraisal
 
The hippopotamus goddess is traditionally presented as a domestic tutelary goddess, mainly linked to the protection of woman, pregnancy, childbirth and early childhood. Equally traditionally, on the basis of the rich documentation found in, or referable to the village – ever since Bruyère's pioneering studies of the 1940s/50s – the special devotion the goddess seems to have enjoyed in the society of Deir el-Medina is scholarly emphasized. Indeed, in the overall dossier of the deity – which spans from the late Old Kingdom to the Graeco-Roman period – the New Kingdom Deir el-Medina chapter is the most prominent, containing also some of the most prominent textual references concerning the goddess under her name of Taweret, from the perspective of the personal religion (‘personal piety’), but also as a community goddess, who supposedly enjoyed a community chapel (“chapelle du Djébel”). The Deir el-Medina documents certainly show singularities, but are also a reference point for understanding other attestations of the deity devotion. In the light of the most recent perspectives of research on the topic of personal religion (e.g., the most recent reflections on the function of votive stelae – which in the Taweret dossier are counted numerous from the Theban village), it seems justifiable to make a reappriasal of the Deir el-Medina documents, toward a more current understanding of the nature of the goddess and the position she occupied in the heart and cult of the community of the Theban village (and also beyond). In the conference venue, with the re-reading of some significant examples, some reflections in this direction will be presented.

 
 
Anna Giulia De Marco - Lisa Sartini - Gersande Eschenbrenner-Diemer
Independent Researcher; Medjehu Project - Universidad de Alcalá
 
Sacredness and ritual practices of craftsmen: the case study of carpentry in Deir el-Medina during the New Kingdom
 
In ancient Egypt, craftsmen were closely associated with the religious sphere as creators of objects. They had the magical ability to craft an object and infuse it with life force, as expressed by the title "sanx", literally “the one who gives life”, often used by sculptors. This act of “creation” was therefore filled with sacredness and required ritual competences. Indeed, according to Irtysen’s stela (Louvre C14) expertise in craft wasn’t solely technical, but primarily ritualistic and transformative: “All forms of magic (HkA), I have equipped myself with it (...). Thus, I am an artisan (Hmw.w) excellent in his craft (Hmw.t)”. Craftsmen’ involvement in the sacred sphere as performers of ritual actions are known since the Old Kingdom mostly from textual and iconographic sources. However, it is less common to find evidence of this “sacredness” on artifacts themselves and in their production process. A remarkable opportunity to investigate these practices is provided by the New Kingdom wooden coffins from Deir el-Medina. These objects, excavated by B. Bruyère in the first half of the 19th century, were recently re-discovered in the storerooms at the archaeological site by the Medjehu Project within the mission of the Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale. Indeed, the interdisciplinary analysis of this group of coffins, due to their dismantled and fragmentary state, has allowed the collection of data on craftsmen’s ritual practices, such as the application of red colour between the joint edges during the coffin-making process, or the religious motivations behind the choice of a particular resin or type of wood. Presenting this case study, the paper will discuss the dual role of Deir el-Medina woodworkers as skilled artisans and significant contributors to the religious sphere through their creation of sacred objects and consequently of an effective funerary environment.

 
 
Massimiliano Franci
CAMNES
 
Religion at Deir el Medina: An analysis from within
 
The analysis of the Egyptian religious milieu has frequently been influenced by the pervasive impact of Greco-Roman literary tradition upon the study of Ancient Egypt. This delineates the Ancient Egyptian history just in recent centuries, following the influx of Near Eastern and Classical influences, where the Greek and Roman perspectives assume a pivotal role. Likewise, the Deir el Medina corpus has recurrently been subjected to analogous treatment, establishing itself as a touchstone for antecedent and subsequent epochs, with a particular emphasis on sources intrinsically affiliated with the facets of rituals and practices that typify religious experiences. Conversely, it behooves us to proffer an analysis of this documentation within its specific contextual context, aspiring to furnish an exegesis as proximate as conceivable to the pristine religious ethos, notwithstanding our acknowledgment of the fundamentally elusive nature of this objective. In this sense, we posit an exploration of the formal constituents and thematic underpinnings of religious thought at Deir el Medina, as they were operationalized in tangible circumstances within the lives of the population, thereby illustrating the interrelationship between prevailing cultural norms and religious praxes. The primary objective lies in the acquisition of an array of empirical data paramount for an enriched comprehension of religious sentiment in Deir el Medina, thereby underscoring the equilibrium maintained between official state ceremonies, expressions of personal piety, and the discernible inclination towards the rejection of ritual comfort.
 


Ikram Ghabriel
Independent Researcher
 
Some Remarks on Ptah’s Worship at Deir el-Medina
 
It is not surprising that the god Ptah held a significant and multifaceted role in the religious life of the New Kingdom artists and workmen residing in Deir el-Medina. While many attribute his prominence to his role as the Patron of Crafts, known as "the Creator of Crafts/men," a closer examination of Ptah's various forms and epithets within the Deir el-Medina community reveals a deeper significance. This lecture will examine the evolution of Ptah's worship among the workmen of Deir el-Medina, shedding light on his diverse aspects and roles, including but not limited to Ptah who Listens to Prayers, South of his Wall, the Lord of Maat, the King of the Two Lands, and Ptah of the Place of Beauty, among others. This comprehensive examination will uncover the multifaceted aspects of Ptah’s worship and the dynamics of religious thoughts and practices among the Deir el-Medina community.
 


Cédric Gobeil
Museo Egizio
 
A votive chapel to (Amun)-Min at Deir el-Medina? A reassessment.
Built against the northeastern part of the village enclosure wall stand a New Kingdom votive chapel. Due to its particular layout and architecture, this monument has been understood to be one of the so-called confraternity or community chapels, based on the definition given by Bernard Bruyère. Since its discovery in 1909 by Ernesto Schiaparelli, a number of scholars have discussed the cult performed in this chapel on the basis of known archaeological and iconographic evidence, without however being able to address the issue conclusively. Conservation and restoration work carried out on the chapel between 2012 and 2014, together with the use of new technologies, have enabled a close examination of its unique decorations and led to a reassessment of the entire construction, as well as the identity of the deity who was once worshipped within.
 


Anastasija Golijewskaja
University of Warsaw
 
Solar representations in the tombs of Deir el-Medina
 
Deir el-Medina was a special village, the archaeological research of which has brought us closer not only to the daily life of the ancient Egyptians, but also to the afterlife beliefs of a special group of people - the royal artisans. Having examined 53 decorated tombs belonging to the inhabitants of the settlement, scenes with solar connotations were discovered in 34 of them. These were images of solar deities or other symbols and elements directly related to the cult of the sun, so popular in ancient Egypt, though especially reserved for kings. Among the 119 compositions, 145 images were highlighted, which the author of this presentation thoroughly studied. Analysis of these images shows not only the statistics of the popularity of certain scenes, their location in the tomb and possible inspirations. The author goes further and delves into the symbolism of the images used. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the accessibility of solar cult to ordinary people, the symbolism of these images, and a general discussion of the decoration of private tombs during the New Kingdom period.
 


Jessica Johnson
University of California Berkeley; University of Basel
 
Hold the Line: The Iconographic and Spatial Role of Gate Guardian Demons in Deir el-Medina Tombs
 
Material culture from Deir el-Medina [DeM] contains multiple representations of demons. Yet there exists little study on how demons fit into religion in the settlement. While the broader scholarly definition of demon remains fluid, conceptual ideas include aspects of protection, liminality, and the relationship between location and capability. Gate guardian demons (Book of the Dead [BD] 144-147), in particular, are often cited because of their frequent textual and visual representation in papyri and tombs. BD 144-147 state that the deceased encounter these demons along their journey in the netherworld, and have to visually recognize and name each guardian to pass by safely. The guardians’ function then, is to protect their sacred liminal spaces (gates) in the netherworld. DeM artisans equipped themselves with BD 144-147 in their tombs, including text and wall paintings of the gate guardians, thus prompting questions about the function of the visual representations (wall paintings), the function of gate guardians in the BD, and the location of the scenes within the architectural space of the tomb. This paper uses materiality theory to study the relationship between text, visual representation, and architecture within the burial chambers in seven DeM tombs, and considers how these factors influence DeM artisans’ visual representation and conceptualization of demons. The wall paintings of the guardians are often near the entrance of the burial chamber surrounded by text that helps the deceased recognize and utilize text and image. The artisans may have put the scenes near the entrance to ‘act out’ the encounter between the deceased and gate guardians detailed within the spells. Through this study, we can better understand patterns of artistic production and preference, and how and why texts and scenes were mapped onto tomb walls. Evidence of intentional arrangements may indicate attempts to materially conceptualize the religious function of gate guardians.
 


Julie Masquelier-Loorius
CNRS Sorbonne Université
 
Beyond beliefs: Opening the door(s), and Housing the Gods. Worship and rituals in houses, and houses of eternity in the Place of Truth through the study of door parts
 
Sacredness can be perceived through observing the architectural setting of the cult. Evidence of religious beliefs have been preserved on door parts from dwellings and from tombs, as well as on the frames of several kinds of cultic cupboards which, when not portable, can be considered as “integrated furniture”. Numerous female and male deities are invoked in their inscriptions, whilst different formulae and wishes are expressed in similar, but never identical, forms in houses and houses of eternity, according to their original location. Furthermore, inscriptions on door parts even present important information about the people involved in the cult, such as the singers, chantresses and different classes of priests. Tomb chapels are particular cult places, since the development of the texts found on their walls reinforce their role as privileged locations used by relatives for the worship of their dead, whilst ritual spaces can be found in houses, thanks to the evolution of religious texts inscribed upon the frames of their doors and on cultic cupboards. The door closing system differs according to the context, and provides information about the degree of security and privacy required. For instance, in dwellings, doors largely remained unlocked, which is contrary to what can be observed in tombs, where chapels still remained accessible since their doors were locked but unsealed, as opposed to the doors in burial chambers which were sealed.
 


Irene Morfini
CAMNES
 
Haroeris and Pay: a Deir el-Medina stela in the basement of the National Museum of Accra (Ghana)
 
In my article An Egyptian collection held in the National Museum in Accra (Ghana), GM 249, 125-129, 2016, I firstly and quickly introduced a small Egyptian collection I discovered in the basement of the National Museum in Accra during my first visit in 2014. At that time I was only able to see a badly preserved wooden coffin dating to the Late period and few amulets. I then returned to Ghana twice, in 2016 and again in 2017 and by then a series of Egyptian artefacts spanning from Predynastic times to the Greco-Roman period had come to light from the boxes stored in the basement of the National Museum of Accra. Amongst them were terracotta and alabaster Predynastic vases, fish-shaped palettes, parts of mummified bodies and animals, and several faience amulets. They were approximately 140 objects, but one caught my interest above all, the only artefact proceeding from Deir el-Medina: a round-topped limestone stela of the draughtsman Pay dedicated to the god Haroeris.
This contribution wants to try to answer a few questions which arose after seeing the stela: When did the Deir el-Medina stela arrive there? Why does the draughtsman Pay have a votive stela in honour of Haroeris, the deity of Ombos (=Nubyt), mostly ignored by the Deir el-Medina community and rarely mentioned in the documents/artefacts found in the village? Another draughtsman, Nebra, son of our draughtsman Pay, in a very similar stela not on display held in the British Museum (BM EA276) is also referring to the god Haroeris. Is this a family matter? Why do they refer to this god? Has this something to do with Pay’s well-known severe eye-problem? Or is it because the father of Pay, Ipuy (v) has his origins outside Deir el-Medina? Comparison with other documents and stelae belonging to Pay and his family, as well as comparison with other Deir el-Medina stelae possibly mentioning Haroeris are necessary.
 


Aliénor Marie Roussel
Sorbonne Université Lettres

The Non-Funerary Chapels of Deir el-Medina: A Structural Typology

Deir el-Medina settlement is a peculiar microcosm inhabited by literate and skilled workmen, whose existence is entirely dedicated to the afterlife dwelling places of the royal person and his family. Even though they lived and worked under Pharaoh’s direct authority, the members of the Tomb Institution managed to transform the state standards, creating their own social and religious space. The thirty or so non-funerary chapels located in the site’s northern part are the ultimate expression of the workmen “religiosity” in the New Kingdom: they are vessels of divine veneration, ancestor worship and community gatherings, dynamizing and strengthening the socio-professional links between inhabitants. As the whole settlement, these chapels are special: each one is unique in its kind, even if they share common features.
Typologizing these structures was the first step to understand their practical and symbolic functions and retrace the community’s “lived religion”. Thanks to a database specifically created to connect the chapels to their original archaeological furniture, and a multiperspective and interdisciplinary approach, it is possible to show how they disrupt our very definition of the chapel.  
This study presents this structural typology and the hypothesis and conclusions that can be drawn from it. We will see that theses chapels are multifunctional spaces, public and private, sacred and profane, sometimes both. In constant evolution, their roles change according to temporality, scale (local or regional) and point of view. Miniature temples and local votive structure at the same time, their architectural layout translates an outstanding knowledge of their sacred environment. They are the engine and cogs of a larger religious and votive machine, including the Theban mountain and the West Bank. In these chapels, the mountain is indeed everywhere, present in the very structure of sacred spaces. Finally, I will propose new designations for these chapels.

 

Tadas Rutkauskas
Department of History / Vytautas Magnus University / Kaunas, Lithuania
 
Between offence and reproach: constructing the concept of sin in the texts from Deir el-Medina
 
In my doctoral thesis “Sünde im Alten Ägypten: eine begriffssemasiologische und begriffsgeschichtliche Untersuchung” defended in 2016 at Heidelberg University two main questions were discussed. Firstly, what can be understood under the term “sin” in ancient Egyptian religion in general? Secondly, what Egyptian words in what contexts can gain the meaning “sin”? The penitential hymns and prayers on stelae from Deir el-Medina as representations of “personal piety” are one of the major sources for this discussion. The most important abstract negative term used in these texts and denoting human wrongdoing against gods is btȝ. However, it is not the only one that deserves to
be focused on. This paper aims to discuss the use and meanings of this and some other negative lexemes in the texts from Deir el-Medina and their role in constructing the concept of sin. These various words can describe offence and fault from the human side and the reproach or punishment from the divine side. The study of other contemporary sources where such lexemes can also be found allows us to understand better why they were used in the texts from Deir el-Medina and their special religious context. Moreover, the semasiological approach and its results shed also light on how the concept of sin could have been developed among the members of the workers’ community. It seems that the major pattern in conceptualizing a religious disqualification of human conduct, i.e., constructing the concept of sin, was mainly based on the relationship between servant and master. This concept was built based on the interconnection between the duty of a subordinate and the expectation of a superior. The relational patterns of the constellation of “subordinate – superior” and the phraseology describing it were transferred to the relationship of humans and gods, as well as to its textual expression.

 

Valentina Santini
CAMNES; University of Birmingham
 
Strike the Pose: Bereavement Gestures in Deir el-Medina Tomb Wall Decorations from a Psychological Standpoint
 
Deir el-Medina tombs are often decorated with scenes strictly related to death, bereavement and funerary rituals, and mourners are usually depicted performing very specific gestures, which carry critical symbolic meanings. However, if we closely observe the body language associated with this iconography, it is possible to discern some evident parallelisms with actual gestures executed by bereaved people in contemporary societies. According to modern Psychology and Anthropology, some contact points between the body language of mourners belonging to different cultures are potentially observable, since determined reactions/responses to loss are communal to humankind – regardless of the society of which they are a product. Therefore, what if we look at the plethora of images related to bereavement belonging to Deir el-Medina tombs, in order to detect gestures linked to loss and sorrow in New Kingdom Egypt and we examine them from a psychological perspective? By using the lens of this medical discipline, would we be able to acquire new pieces of information concerning the way in which the inhabitants of Deir el-Medina used to cope with grief? Could such an inter- and multidisciplinary approach give us some hints about the response of New Kingdom Egyptians to loss and death, and supply us with new tools for rethinking this crucial aspect of the so-called funerary religion?
 


Marina Sartori
University of Oxford
 
A family ceremony: Adoring Osiris in 18th dynasty Deir el-Medina
 
Several depictions on stelae are known from Deir el-Medina displaying the deceased and his family, including his children, in the act of adoring and offering to Osiris or other deities. However, only seldom do we see comparable family representations in tombs, two notable exceptions being the chapel of Kha, TT8 (Amenhotep II – Amenhotep III), and that of Nu and Nakhtmin, TT291 (Tutankhamun-Horemheb; the scene in question, recorded in 1926 by Bruyere, is now lost). These are two of the only six 18th dynasty chapels in the village, and in both cases, the tomb owner is represented standing in front of Osiris enthroned in a kiosk and bringing offerings to him. In this act, he is followed by his wife and children, a widespread feature in the Amarna period. As tomb paintings were one of the most important media of self-representation in ancient Egypt, what do these rare depictions tell us about the relevance of the devotion to the god within any one family? Do they hint at a strong bond in terms of personal (or in this case, group) piety? Likewise, what do they reveal on the importance of family in the performance of cult activities before and after Akhenaton? The paper will thus illustrate the social and religious context in which the representations were developed, supplemented by a study of the prosopography of the owners, and seek to understand the choice of a different medium (wall painting vs. stela) to express personal devotion to a deity. Drawing information from other contemporaneous sources (stelae, manuscripts) as well, the paper will endeavour to shed light on how the devotion to Osiris was experienced in 18th dynasty Deir el-Medina, and especially the role of the family in the cult of the god in the wake and aftermath of the Amarna period.
 


Iria Souto Castro
University of Vigo; Universität Trier
 
Ancestors’ veneration in Deir el-Medina houses
 
Interactions with dead relatives are attested in the Theban mortuary landscape since at least the Middle Kingdom, when people used to make offerings to their ancestors to keep their memory alive and ensure their endurance in the Afterlife. This religious behaviour has been attested within the domestic religious practices (Meskell 2002; Stevens 2006; Weiss 2015; Mota 2015; Mota 2018). Similarly, in the domestic sphere, it has been argued that the houses from the site of Deir el-Medina included a space – often identified with the second room or salle du divan (Bruyère 1939)– where anthropoid busts, together with vertical niches, altars, and decorations, have been discovered and connected to a possible veneration of the dead relatives. In addition to this, a strong concern for securing the continuity of the household lineage seems to have occurred at the site due to the high mortality among other reasons (e.g., concerns about fertility in some depictions on figurative ostraca in connection to the so-called female scenes; female figurines attested at the site; inscribed ostraca with petitions…). This paper aims to revisit the main evidence for supporting the existence of the worship to deceased members of the household and the reasons why they were appealed and venerated within the home. In order to do so, and to illustrate analogies in the domestic setting, paralleled examples from other periods (namely the Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom) and from other sites in Egypt will be provided, also for further comparisons.
 


Deborah Sweeney
Tel Aviv University
 
Gender and worship in the sacred landscape around Deir el-Medîna
 
This lecture will investigate the lived experiences of the different members of the tomb-builders’ community encountering and interacting with the divine in the landscape around Deir el-Medîna and beyond, focusing particularly but not only on gendered differences. To a certain extent, the tomb-builders and the women of the community would have encountered different environments: for instance, the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens, were off-limits to everyone except the workmen themselves, the supply crew, and visiting officials. The women of the community could not have visited the waterfall or the shrine at the Valley of the Queen. But families are known to have visited Karnak together and endowed stelae at Medinet Habu. Men are attested visiting Deir el-Bahri, separately and in groups, and women may also have done so. Many of the ways in which people interacted with the sacred in their environment – visiting sacred places, praying, offering food and drink which they then consumed – did not necessarily leave traces detectable nowadays. Religious texts were produced by the literate members of the community (usually men), graffiti addressing deities were a completely male genre, and inscribed objects tended to be produced for (relatively well-to-do) men, or for (relatively well-to-do) men and their families, less often for women. Texts and visual representations give some indication of practices which both men and women may have undertaken, maybe differently, maybe similarly. This gendered division of certain practices and sites raises the question: can we see gendered differences in the way that women and men of the community related to deities strongly connected to the environment surrounding them, such as Hathor, Mut and Amun?
 


Mykola Tarasenko
Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Oxford
 
"Draughtsmen" of Deir el-Medina and the Book of the Dead
 
The Book of the Dead (Egyptian “Spells of coming forth by day”) is one of the most important ancient Egyptian collections of finerary spells, alongside the Pyramid Texts and Coffin Texts. It is a group of about two hundred formulae (termed r.w “Utterances” in Egyptian) for securing eternal life, provisioning, and protecting the deceased, which was written on papyrus rolls for elite burials from the New Kingdom to the end of the Ptolemaic Period. At the same time the information about direct personalities who were creators of the is still to be scarce. Two facts are undoubted: the Book of the Dead papyri appear during the 18th Dynasty of the New Kingdom in Theban region; highly qualified craftsmen, representatives of two professions – artists and scribes, took part in their manufacture. These were the artisans of the village of “Place of Truth” (Deir el-Medina), who worked on the decoration of the royal tombs of the Valley of the Kings. They undoubtedly had all the necessary skills and knowledge to create funerary monuments, including funeral scrolls. It is very possible that these artists played a leading role in the production of the Book of the Dead. In general, in the process of decorating funerary inventory, the first and most important (from the point of view of the Egyptians) work was done by the artist, and only then the text was written out by a scribe. In report the role of most socially “prestigious” categories of artisans of the “Place of Truth” – sš ḳdwt “Draughtsman” (lit. “Scribe of images”) – in the production of the Book of the Dead papyri will be discussed.
 


Sandrine Vuilleumier
University of Basel
 
Divine Feminine at Deir el-Medina? Permanence and Evolution of the Perception of the Sacredness of Local Goddesses
 
Deir el-Medina is best known as a New Kingdom settlement, where the Ptolemies nevertheless rebuilt and decorated a temple at a time when the workers’ village had long since been abandoned. This is unmistakable evidence of the sacredness still attached to the site many centuries after its principal floruit. Although the small temple at Deir el-Medina is regularly cited for its special features, it is important that the "Deir el-Medina in Graeco-Roman times" project finally devotes a specific analysis to this building in order to better understand its role, to consider its links with the past of the place where it stands and to position it in the contemporaneous religious landscape of Thebes. This paper will focus on the deployment of the feminine principle in the temple’s decoration and its impact on local theology. Several aspects of the personality of Hathor and other goddesses honoured in the sanctuary will be addressed, in particular by comparing their epithets and attributes, the forms they can take and the relationships they maintain both with each other and with the male gods. This dialectic will shed light on the strategies implemented to reveal their sacredness and, by moving back and forth in time, to observe how this concept fits locally in with both their past roots and their contemporaneous implications. As models of a Divine Feminine recycled by our societies right up to the present day, these divine figures prompt us to question the perception of their sacred role from a perspective that aims to go beyond essentialist gender prejudices to tackle the intrinsic notions of the sacredness attributed to them.

Conference venue (CAMNES-Lorenzo de' Medici)

Ex-Church of S. Jacopo - Via Faenza, 43 - Florence (Italy)


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