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* "Do Not Celebrate Your Feast without Your Neighbours" : A Study of References to Feasts and Festivals in Non-Literary Documents from Ramesside Period Deir el-Medina

Author(s):  Jauhiainen, Heidi
Format:  Book
Publisher:  University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts, Institute for Asian and African Studies, Egyptology
Publication City:  Helsinki
Date:  2009
Text:  This dissertation is a study of the forms and functions of feasts and feasting in the ancient Egyptian village of Deir el-Medina in Thebes (modern Luxor). This particular village, during the New Kingdom (c. 1550–1069 BC), was inhabited by the men (and their families) who constructed the Royal Tombs in the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens. The royal artisans were probably more literate than the average Egyptians and the numerous Ramesside Period (c. 1295–1069 BC) non-literary texts found in the excavations of the village and its surroundings form the source material for this study. In this study, the methods used are mainly Egyptological and the references to feasts and feasting are considered in view of what is known of New Kingdom Egypt, Thebes, and Deir el-Medina. Nevertheless, it is the use of the methodological concept ‘local vernacular religion’ that has resulted in the division of the research findings into two sections, i.e., references to feasts celebrated both in and outside the community and other references to feasts and feasting in the village. When considering the function of the feasts celebrated at Deir el-Medina, a functional approach to feasts introduced by anthropologists and archaeologists is utilized. The Deir el-Medina feasts which were associated with the official religion form a festival calendar of feasts celebrated annually on the same civil calendar day. The reconstructed festival calendar of Deir el-Medina reflects the feasts celebrated around Thebes or, at least, in Western Thebes. The function of the nationally and regionally observed feasts (which, at least at Deir el-Medina, resulted in a work-free day) may have been to keep people content so that they would continue to work which was to the advantage of the king and the elite surrounding him. Local feasts appear to have been observed more irregularly at Deir el-Medina or perhaps according to the lunar calendar. Feasts celebrated by the community as a whole served to maintain the unity of the group. In addition to feasts celebrated by the entire community, the inhabitants of Deir el-Medina could mark their own personal feasts and organize small gatherings during public feasts. Through such feasts, an individual man might form alliances and advance his chances of a favourable marriage or of acquiring a position on the work crew.