Deir el-Medina is the site of a very special workman's village, whose craftsmen built and decorated the tombs of the Pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings. They were members of a highly skilled community who passed down the knowledge of their trade from father to son through many generations, beginning at least as far back as the reign of Tuthmose I.  The village was laid out in a square grid within mud-brick walls, as you can see in the picture below.

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The village of Deir el-Medina as seen today,
in Schulz and Seidel's Egypt: World of the Pharaohs

We have a great deal of evidence of the lives of the workmen living here during the reigns of Ramesses II and His successors.  These include stelae and tomb inscriptions, papyri, and ostraca, all of which serve to give us a picture of the lives of the people who lived and worked in this village.

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The Necropolis of Deir el-Medina,
in Wildung's Egypt: From Prehistory to the Romans

Underground tombs cut into the cliff face lie behind the houses of the villagers at Deir el-Medina.  Steep-sided pyramids mark the entrances, with the deceased being buried below the ground-level chapel inside. 

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The Temple of Het-Hert at Deir el-Medina, in L'égypte restituée, vol. I

The small temple seen in the picture above was constructed during the reign of Ptolemy IV Philopator, Ptolemy Philometor, and Ptolemy Neos dionysos, from approximately 220-145 B.C.E.  The name "Deir el-Medina" means "the Convent of the Town" in Arabic, and was given because of the temple's final use by Coptic monks.  The Temple of Het-Hert was dedicated to several deities of the necropolis, including Het-Hert and Ma'at, but also to Imhotep (the architect of Djoser) and Amenhotep son of Hapu, both of whom were deified in their lifetimes.

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Plan of small temple of Het-Hert and Ma'at at Deir el-Medina, in L'égypte restituée, vol. I

The wall surrounding the temple maintains for the most part its original height, and there is a well-preserved section of annexes and storage houses which would have contained supplies to maintain the worship and the clergy.  The small temple, with its gracious proportions and excellent state of preservation, caught the attention of the members of the "Commission de la Description d'Égypte" [published in ten volumes between 1809 and 1824] who surveyed the site and produced a colored perspective view of the interior. 

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View of the interior of the Temple of Het-Hert at Deir el-Medina, in Egypt, Yesterday and Today:  Lithographs by David Roberts, R.A.

Two large papyrus-formed columns and two Hathoric pilasters hold up the roof in the hypostyle hall, and a stairway on the south leads to the roof. Decoration near the three chapels of the pronaos show a Pharoah presenting offerings to various deities.  It is possible that this temple was built over an even more ancient site of worship.

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Reconstruction of the interior of the Temple of Het-Hert, in Stierlin's The Pharaohs: Master-Builders

The personal piety and religion of the inhabitants of Deir el-Medina can be seen clearly in the many votive stelae found at the site.  The stelae were offered as gratitude for healing or favors, or to petition Netjer's help in adversity.   

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Stela of Nefersenut from Deir el-Medina,
in Bierbrier's The Tomb Builders of the Pharaohs

In the stela pictured above, the workman Nefersenut is kneeling with a brazier, offering incense to Het-Hert.  In the register below, his sons kneel in adoration.  Many of the stelae from Deir el-Medina set up in Het-Hert's Name probably came from Her temple there.

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Stela of the foreman Baki,
from Bierbrier's The Tomb-Builders of the Pharaohs

In this stela, the foreman Baki and his son are shown in the top register worshipping Ptah and Het-Hert.  Ptah, the Patron of Craftsmen, and Het-Hert, were both widely worshipped at Deir el-Medina.  Numerous monuments to both Names of Netjer have been found in the houses as well as the votive chapels at the site.  In the register below, a group of workmen and the village doctor Amenmose stand in an attitude of worship.

There were many chapels and shrines dedicated to various deities, attesting to the devotion of the workmen living there.  A total of sixteen to eighteen small temples, the larger of which was dedicated to Het-Hert and Ramesses II, and another dedicated to Ptah, have been found.  Several of the chapels had benches for seating up to twelve persons.  Cult statues, votive stelae, libation basins, ash from cooking, and objects for ancestors have all been found at these sites, leading us to believe that the chapels were special gathering places for the villagers to pray, venerate their ancestors and partake of the food which had been offered.  Stelae and ancestral busts depicting deceased relatives have also been found in the homes.  When the workmen were away from home, sleeping in the small settlement on the way from Deir el-Medina to the Valley of the Kings, they worshipped at the more than 50 small shrines set up there.

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