Initially like many of us when we went into lockdown I was suffering from ‘brain fog’. I really did not know what to do with myself. After collecting my thoughts, I decided to catch up with some long overdue writing. To my shame, I discovered I had begun an article for Nile magazine in 2018 but due to work commitments I had not completed this. Clearly, I had no excuse now!! So, I embraced this project with gusto. I have now written four articles on the Women of Deir el-Medina; we often hear about the workmen, but I wanted to consider the female residents of the village and their representations.
The first article reviews images of women on figured ostraca, the focus of my PhD. These include unique representations of women in the household, very probably celebrating the birth of a child. The scenes are important as the women are the main focus of the narrative; they are not merely accompanying their husband or father. In fact, no men appear in these scenes, with the exception of servants.
The second article focused on female figurines found at the site. This was also part of my PhD research. While examples are found in other settlements from the New Kingdom, it is the number that is noteworthy. Bernard Bruyère, the excavator of Deir el-Medina, found hundreds in the debris of the houses. While this included some standard depictions of women from this time period, the village also yielded some of the most individualistic representations of women from the New Kingdom.
The first two articles highlighted images and objects which could be seen as examples of regional art. The latter two focused on how women were represented in more formal genres, including stelae and tomb imagery. Personally, the most fascinating aspect of this research was to view women venerated on stelae as 3ḫ íḳr n R’ (Able or Effective Spirits of Ra). These were deceased family members who had passed the judgement and joined the gods. They were worshipped by the living in the hope they would intercede with the gods on their behalf; most stelae show male ancestors but three show females. These articles should be published in Nile magazine later this year and into next year.