Deir el-Medina (the workers village) one of the best preserved ancient settlements in the whole of Egypt. It situated on the west bank of the Nile opposite Luxor. Deir el Medina is the Arabic term for Monastery of the City. In this instance 'Monastery' refers to the Coptic monastery that was built there in the 5th Century AD (after the patronage of St. Isadore) and 'City' refers to the Medinet Habu but during the Ramsside Period the village was known as Set-Matt the 'Place of Truth'..

 

The ruined town now has a monochrome look as there is virtually no colour other than the white of the walls and the grey of the dust but it must have looked very different in its heyday.

 

The walled village was probably founded during the reign of Thutmose I in the Eighteenth Dynasty, and was occupied until close to the end of the New Kingdom (1550-1070 BC). By the reign of Ramesses II the village contained about 120 houses. These single-storeyed buildings opened onto the main street or onto narrow side alleys.

 

During the 18th – 20th New Kingdom Dynasties, this village was a hive of activity. Not only did guards protect it, but also entry to it was most likely restricted to those who lived there. Intruders were likely to be killed. The residents of its seventy houses were gifted artisans who had the favour of the Pharaohs for whom they prepared tombs in the Valley of the Kings- ‘Houses of Eternity’.

 

It was the workers’ task to dig, prepare, and decorate the tombs; and that made them holders of secrets. Not only did they know where the Pharaohs’ tombs were they also knew precisely what was in them and that made the tombs vulnerable to robbers; consequently, the village was deliberately isolated.

 

However, as most tombs were actually robbed soon after their completion it appears that the villagers were not as entirely honest or free from gossip as the Pharaohs believed them to be. During their frequent visits to the riverside where they traded in animals and surplus goods including coffins, they could well have traded in information too.