The great surprise
Rock shrine

In Leiden, the team of researchers are working on a database, that collects textual evidence based on
data from papyri, ostraka and graffiti. The database is called The Deir el-Medina Database. It is
meant to be a presentation of the ongoing research project called "Survey of the New Kingdom
Non-literary Texts from Deir el-Medina of Leiden University". The present version of the Deir
el-Medina Database is available at and enables the user to search and
retrieve the documents relevant to their research activities. The project is supported by the
Netherlands Foundation for Scientific Research (NWO) and by the Faculty of Arts of Leiden
Universityand staffed by Prof. J.F. Borghouts (supervisor), Dr R.J. Demarée, Dr K. Donker van Heel,
Dr A. Egberts, Dr B. Haring and Dr J. Toivari-Viitala.   

Dr. Robert J. Demarée from Leiden University recently (2011) gave a talk at the Dutch Institute in
Cairo, during which he informed the audience, of his meticulous research. It had resulted in what he
called "a great surprise" :
He said that ..."it appeared that the workers, or should we say workmen and artisans, the  people who
built the rock-cut tombs of the Pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings  from about 1500 BC onwards, may
have later been employed on a project aimed at  "emptying" and "recycling" their contents."...

..."The material revealed that, under Ramses IX, it was no longer safe in the  village and the
community took refuge near the Temple of Deir el-Bahri where they created tombs for the Priests of
Amun, and, under a new boss of a new  dynasty in Thebes, the ruling elite appears to have been given
orders to empty  the royal tombs and recycle the objects," Demarée said.

At the end of 2017 Dr. Demarée told NILE Magazine ( that from a
study of around 100 ostraka and dozens of graffiti, it appears that, rather than sheltering at Medinet
Habou - an often-repeated narrative on the final years of Deir el-Medina - teams of workmen led by
the scribe Butehamun (and later, his sons and grandsons) had a workshop in front of the Deir el-Bahri
temple. Exactly where they were living is unknown. No houses from that period are known for certain.
The house of Butehamun at Medinet Habou was an office rather than a home residence. But it is clear
that the tomb of Ramesses IX was left unfinished. The villagers abandoned their settlement at Deir
el-Medina and moved away to Thebes. They only returned to visit the dead relatives and friends and to
inter new burials there.
Deir el-Bahri
This page was last modified on January 16th 2018
Photography © Lenka and Andy Peacock