Finnish researchers dig through millennia in the Valley of the Kings

Docent Jaana Toivari-Viitala heads the first-ever research project managed by Finns in Egypt.

Jaana Toivari-Viitala and Elina Paulin-Groethe

The first field season is now over at the hut village of the workmen who built the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. However, the archaeologists working on the excavation have found that they still have a great deal to do. The sun, the wind and tourists have left their mark on the village, originally discovered by Bernard Bruyère in 1935.

“From our modern perspective, it is upsetting to see how the village was first excavated and then left to be destroyed. Passers-by have used the huts as dumps and restrooms,” says Jaana Toivari-Viitala, Docent of Egyptology at the University of Helsinki. “Fortunately, while we still have some surface cleaning to do, documentation and conservation are off to a good start.”

The hut village offers rare insight into everyday life in ancient Egypt.

“In the early twentieth century, archaeologists were only interested in the tombs of kings. The workmen’s huts they discovered were seen as a necessary evil in the quest for the real treasures.”

“Now several international research groups on different excavations are delving into everyday life and work in the Valley of the Kings. This seems to be a trend in archaeology right now,” Toivari-Viitala says.

Her research group wants to find out why the hut village was built on the slope of a mountain, halfway between the construction site and Deir-el-Medina. They are also interested in how many workers lived in the village at a time, when they lived there, and what their role was in the construction work.

“Comparing the names found in the village and in Deir-el-Medina provides useful information. Judging from the construction methods, settlement in the village can be divided into two separate periods: the initial settlement and a later one.”

For the time being, much is up to speculation, but Toivari-Viitala believes that the coming four field seasons, three months each, will see results.

“The working conditions are not nearly as difficult as I thought they would be. The cool winds in the mountains nicely alleviate the heat.”

The research group working on the “Workmen’s huts in the Theban mountains” project is planning to return to the Valley of the Kings in October.

Text: Sanna Agullana
Photo: Sanna Schildt
28.1.2009
www.helsinki.fi/digitalcommunications

Translation: AAC Noodi Oy

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