Ramesside Queens’ Tombs, the Book of the Dead, and the Deir el-Medina Iconographic Tradition: A Work in Progress

Lecture by Heather Lee McCarthy, New York University

  • 6:00 p.m.Cairo Center
  • American Research Center in Egypt2 Midan Simón Bolívar
    Garden City, Cairo
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At the beginning of the 19th Dynasty, Ramesside royal women’s tombs, located in the Valley of the Queens, were dramatically enhanced in several ways, including the creation of new, innovative decorative programs tailored to the gender, status, and roles of the royal female tomb owners. The development of these programs also involved the creation of new Book of the Dead vignettes and new arrangements of pre-existing vignettes. The Deir el-Medina artisans, who cut and decorated the royal tombs in western Thebes, were at the center of this creative activity, and they also developed a rich iconographic tradition of their own, which they applied to the decoration of their tombs and funerary papyri.

The twofold purpose of this research project is to examine the crucial role played by early 19th Dynasty Ramesside royal women’s tombs in the development of Book of the Dead vignettes subsequently incorporated into the Deir el-Medina iconographic tradition and to systematically investigate the paths of transmission from queens’ tombs to artisans’ tombs. In order to achieve the research aims, the speaker is studying and photographing relevant scenes from twenty-one decorated Deir el-Medina private tombs, focusing on those that employed the same Book of the Dead spells used in the tombs of Ramesside royal women in the Valley of the Queens. In this lecture, an overview of the project will be presented as well as data gathered during the ongoing field research in Western Thebes.

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