The chapels and shrines of Deir el-Medina

The chapel of Seti, situated north of the enclosure wall to the main Temple of Hathor, was first excavated by Schiaparelli in 1906. Baraize excavated a small chapel on the interior of the northwest angle of the enclosure wall in 1912. The major work was undertaken by Bruyère between 1922-1951. Bruyère managed to identify 32 cult buildings, apart from the Temple of Hathor.

The cult buildings Bruyère excavated varied in plan from a small court before a shrine, in several instances cut into the cliff, to the usual tripartite plan, with or without benches, and finally to what he classified as a miniature temple. The terminology applied to these varied from Temple, Chapelle, Chapelle Votive, Chapelles des Confrèries, Chapelle Religieuse. The plan of individual structures was dictated by the nature of the cult worshipped within the building.

Ann Bomann was able to re-examine 27 of the cult buildings at Deir el-Medina in the last quarter of the 20th century. Her findings were published in 1991. Bomann noted that Bruyère reconstructed most of the structures while excavating them. According to her finds, although the intention of preserving them was commendable, she found it difficult to assess certain parts of the buildings, since the reconstruction was not properly distinguished from the original structure. She found many of the walls and stairs totally renewed, in some cases with material from a different part of the chapel. For example, bricks from vaulted ceilings were reused as fill for staircases. This was apparent in the Temple of Hathor of Seti I. Bomann found at the time that much of Bruyère's reconstruction was deteriorating, with wall and stair collapses occurring in many of the buildings. None of the original floors were visible, they were covered over with gravel and sand. Features including column bases, ovens, and basins sunk into the ground, which appear in older plans, either vanished or were located in a different place. Very little of the original plaster and wall paintings mentioned in Bruyère's reports survived.

I tried to compare Ann Bomann's plans and detailed descriptions using her text published in 1991 pp. 39-51 with the remains of the cult buildings at Deir el-Medina in February 2007. The results together with the photographs can be found on the following pages.

Luxor 361.jpg
Chapels within the
temple enclosure wall
The second group of religious
structures is to be found within
the enclosure wall of the main
Ptolemaic temple at Deir el-Medina.
Chapels southwest of the
temple enclosure wall
The fourth group of cult buildings
is located to the southwest of the
main temple. Most of these
structures were called Chapelle
Votive by Bruyère.
Chapels north of the temple
enclosure wall
The first group of the chapels at
Deir el-Medina lay to the north of
the enclosure wall of the main
Ptolemaic temple. The chapel area
covers the slope gently rising
towards the western steep cliffs.
Chapels east of the temple
enclosure wall
Another group of cult structures is
located to the east of the
enclosure wall of the main Ptolemaic
temple. Remains of a Ramesside
chapel are to be found here.
1. Bomann, Ann H.: The private chapel in ancient Egypt : a study of the chapels in the workmen's village at el Amarna with special reference to Deir el-Medina and other sites.
London : Kegan Paul International, 1991.
2. Wilkinson, R. H. : The complete temples of Ancient Egypt.London : Thames & Hudson, 2000.
3. Clayton, Peter A.: Chronicles of the Pharaohs : the reighn-by-reign record of the rulers and dynasties of ancient Egypt
London : Thames & Hudson, 1994.