Ramesside Royal Women’s Tombs, the Book of the Dead, and the Deir el-Medina Iconographic Tradition
March 3, 2022 Eastern Time
Northampton, MA United States
Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America
AIA Society: Western Massachusetts
Lecturer: Heather Lee McCarthy
The early Ramesside period was a time of tremendous innovation that impacted religion, art, and the ideology of kingship and queenship. The funerary realm was one of the settings for this upsurge of new ideas, and sweeping changes were brought to bear on royal and non-royal tombs alike. Perhaps the most dramatic changes concerned the burials of Ramesside queens. From the start of Dynasty 19, these royal wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters were interred in a separate, discrete necropolis specifically re-purposed for royal women, called Ta Set Neferu (“The Place of the Beautiful Ones”), and now known as the Valley of the Queens. These royal women’s tombs were larger and more elaborately decorated than those of their 18th Dynasty counterparts. In the early 19th Dynasty, new decorative schemes were developed for Ramesside royal women’s tombs, including the creation of new Book of the Dead vignettes and new arrangements of pre-existing vignettes. The design of these decorative schemes impacted the iconographic tradition of the Deir el-Medina villagers who cut and decorated these tombs.
The purpose of this lecture is to present an overview of my work in progress investigating the role of Ramesside royal women’s tombs as loci of religious, iconographic, and artistic innovation and also tracing the paths of artistic transmission from queens’ tombs to Deir el-Medina private tombs. I will discuss my observations and findings concerning the usage of Book of the Dead scenes gleaned from my examination and photographic documentation of selected Deir el-Medina tombs.
Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):
Morris L. Bierbrier, The Tomb-builders of the Pharaohs (Cairo, 1989).
Benedict G. Davies, Who’s Who at Deir el Medina: A Prosopographic Study of the Royal Workmen’s Community (Leiden, 1999).
Erik Hornung, The Valley of the Kings, Horizon of Eternity (New York, 1990).
Cathleen Keller, “Royal Painters: Deir El-Medina in Dynasty XIX,” in E. Bleiberg and R. Freed, (eds.), Fragments of a Shattered Visage: Proceedings of the International Symposium on Ramesses the Great (Memphis, 1991), 50-86.
Leonard Lesko, Pharaoh’s Workers: The Villagers of Deir el-Medina (Ithaca and London, 1994).
Heather L. McCarthy, “Ramesside Queens’ Tombs, the Book of the Dead, and the Development of the Deir el-Medina Iconographic Tradition,” Scribe: The Magazine of the American Research Center in Egypt (Spring 2020), 52-59.
John Romer, Ancient Lives: Daily Life in the Egypt of the Pharaohs (New York, 1984).
La Follette Lecture