Universiteit Leiden

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PhD project

Necropolis journal: The Administration of an Egyptian Artisans’ Community

What was the practice of keeping the Necropolis Journal?

In Egyptological literature, the written records on papyri and ostraca (inscribed stone splinters) concerning the daily activities of the workmen or artisans of Deir el-Medina are commonly labeled as “the journal” or “the Necropolis journal”. In these notes, written by the scribes in hieratic script, we find information about the gang of workmen employed in the construction of the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens throughout the Ramesside period (c. 1300-1100 BC). It includes the collective administration with presence or absence of individuals on specific days, their payments, private problems concerning individual crew members, internal perturbations (strikes, trials, etc.), visits by officials, and incursions by “foreigners”. These records, therefore, provide us with fundamental insights into the life of this unique community. 

In my PhD study I intend to analyze several aspects arising from the main research question: “What was the practice of keeping the Necropolis Journal?”, i.e. did the administration of the community keep continuous daily records of their activities, and how did they go about this? These kind of notes have always been considered journals since their edition by Botti and Peet, but would they have been considered journals from an ancient Egyptian point of view? The need at that time was to run the artisans’ community. Was the journal the answer of the administration to this necessity? According to Egyptian standards, what would a journal actually look like? Also, the question if there was more than a single journal kept is worth investigating.

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