My Favorite Site – A Day in the Life at Dayr al Madina

This class was my first introduction to archaeology and it’s made me reconsider the field as a whole. I’ve begun to see archaeology as a field with strict scientific rigor. The goal of all archaeologists is to relearn the forgotten ways of our shared ancestors. These discoveries, these sites, these artifacts are data. Data in the same sense as physics and biology. Astrophysicists look back hundreds of millions of years to see for answers among their data – is it not the same for archeology? The result; the conclusion of all this information, is a view of humanity’s rise and fall since the inception of our race. Every artifact offers a look into the lives of people who are no different than you or I; they just happened to be born into a world separated by a few hundred years. We read about temples and palaces but my favorite finds are the houses, the small things that subtlety holds the stories of the people that carried them. That’s the cultural heritage – the spoon, the shard of pottery with writing on the back, the bed of straw. That’s why I like learning about the Valley of the King – not for all the kings and tombs and stuff – but for the small village of Dayr al Madina. I find it much more interesting because I have much more in common with a working man than with a royal pharaoh. Of course all the nice trinkets are beautiful to look upon but to get a glimpse at what life was like for a common man 2000 years ago is far more wonderful. They have receipts and notes and pots for bread – seems very boring but this debris of everyday life shows that these men and women weren’t so different from us. There is a sense of connection that crosses through the generational distance between us. I wonder, looking at a man’s house in Dayr al Madina, how he would have spent the hours there. Did he have a wife? Did he have a drink with his buddies after a long day of work? Did he just lie around some days or did he work at home? In 5000 years it is unlikely that my house will still exist as it does now, or that this country will look the way it does, and someday far in the future, maybe some young archaeologist will excavate my room and see the detritus of my life and in so doing connect with me across time.