A compilation of short films made specially for schools based on the BBC Two history series. Dr Joann Fletcher finds out what living in ancient Egypt was like for ordinary people.
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Welcome to Pa-demi,
an ancient Egyptian village where nobody's lived for over 3,000 years.
Believe it or not it was once really busy,
teeming with life, a very noisy bustling kind of place.
The village lies near a place called the Valley Of The Kings
where ancient Egypt's Kings, known as pharaohs,
were buried in huge tombs deep underground.
And the men who built these royal tombs lived in the village with their families.
Archaeologists exploring here can learn a lot about the everyday lives
of these working people, and thanks to one very special discovery,
we can actually study two of the people who used to live here.
Their names are Kha and Meryt and they were husband and wife.
When they died their bodies their bodies were mummified to preserve them
and placed with all their clothes, furniture and even food
in a secret underground tomb on the edge of their village.
The tomb was so well hidden that no-one entered it again for 3,000 years.
It wasn't until 1906 when an Italian archaeologist discovered it
and took all the contents back to a museum in Turin in Italy.
So who were Kha and Meryt?
These are the mummies of Kha and Meryt in the museum.
By using computer eye scanning we can create an image of what
they looked like beneath the many layers
of linen strips in which they are still wrapped.
We know that Kha, who stood about five foot six,
was a very striking-looking individual,
with a rather prominent nose
and a great fondness for lots of black eyeliner.
But then when we turn to his little wife, Meryt,
a very dainty little lady, standing about five foot two.
She also had a long, crimped wig of dark brown, wavy hair
which would have made her look really, really beautiful.
The objects found in Kha's tomb are inscribed with hieroglyphics,
which is how the Egyptians used to write.
These little pictures and symbols tell us that Kha designed
the royal tombs and was in charge of the workmen who built them.
which, of course, made Kha and Meryt very important people,
both to their neighbours and to the Pharaoh.
But how did they live here?
What did they eat? What did they drink?
How on earth, in this really, really hot climate,
did they keep themselves clean?
Kha and Meryt lived with their family in this close-knit community
in homes like these.
Over 3,000 years ago these houses would have had roofs
with much higher walls which have crumbled away over time.
The houses gave them shade from the burning sun
but I have to use an umbrella.
Archaeologists have carefully studied these houses
to discover more about what each room was used for.
So we go into the front room here.
And this would be an area, really,
where the woman of the house hung out,
chatted, gossiped and so forth.
Kids running in and out. Up the stairs.
Around the corner into perhaps the most important room in the house,
where the men would retire in the evening.
This piece of furniture is what is left of an ancient Egyptian sofa.
The gentlemen of the house, with enough time on his hands,
could recline with his friends, drink beer, have a natter.
Then back up this little step and then into this area,
which is quite a considerable size for a room like this.
Probably storage but also a bedroom.
In the case of Kha and Meryt we know they had some beautiful beds.
These beds were found in their tomb.
The ancient Egyptians didn't have pillows,
but used these wooden headrests
which looked rather uncomfortable to us today.
As we progress further into the highest part of the house,
we come into a storage area, maybe for clothes,
but almost certainly for food and drink also
because this area directly adjoins this wonderful fitted kitchen.
This is extraordinary, because we've actually got the built-in oven
at the back of the house.
And then here an Ancient Egyptian refrigerator.
You'd want a cool drink - on a day like this, you can understand why.
And the only way to do this was to sink the vessels
into a pit deep in the ground.
A little temporary roof over it to keep it as chilled as possible.
So fridge, oven. They've got everything they needed.
Mud brick ovens, just like Kha and Meryt had,
are still being used in Egypt today.
Just as in ancient times, they are still used to make bread.
I've come to the house of this Egyptian lady to see how it is done.
Now, bread was the key ingredient in the Ancient Egyptian diet.
This bread has been made using very similar ingredients to those used in Kha's day.
It is an easy recipe made with wheat and barley flour, water and salt.
Around 50 loaves of bread of all different shapes and sizes
were found in Kha and Meryt's tomb.
It's a real direct link back into their world.
The smell of this wonderful stuff, the feel of it, the way it was made.
All Egyptians would have eaten this on a daily basis.
Egyptian bread is fantastic.
so I am eating the very stuff that Kha and Meryt would have eaten
every single day of their lives. It's fantastic.
And this is where the grains to make the flour for the bread,
the wheat and barley, were once stored.
In ancient Egypt money didn't exist,
so people were paid with things like sacks of grain.
And as well as making bread with it,
they could also use some of the grain two exchange for clothes,
furniture and other things to eat.
As well as bread many different kinds of food were discovered
in Kha and Meryt's tomb, including fruit, vegetables,
meat and spices.
Although this fruit now looks very old and dry,
it would have looked delicious 3,500 years ago, when it was still fresh.
And it's quite wonderful stuff.
You have the staple of the ancient Egyptian life here, the bread,
accompanied by the all-important onions and garlic.
This was a standard sort of workmen's packed lunch.
One of these on a daily basis with garlic here,
that's kind of ancient Egyptian packed lunch.
The fruit, there were grapes,
and these amazing things.
he had several sacks of these, these are dom palm nuts, although I have
never personally eaten one, they apparently taste like caramel.
There was another thing that the villagers needed a lot of,
and that was water.
Not that far away from the village is the River Nile.
Flowing right through the middle of their country,
the Egyptians used the Nile to transport people and goods from place to place.
Most importantly, in a country with hardly any rain,
the Nile was the only source of water.
Donkeys were used to carry this water to Kha and Meryt's village every day.
Each family was given a daily allowance of about 100 litres of water,
which would have been used for drinking and cooking and washing.
3,500 years ago in the village you would have needed this stuff
at the end of a long day to have washed away the dirt and the sweat.
Now, of course, what goes in must come out.
Just like you and me, the ancient Egyptians went to the toilet.
But they didn't have flushing toilets and toilet paper and so on.
This unusual stool with a hole in it was discovered in
Kha and Meryt's tomb and it had a very important purpose.
When Kha and Meryt needed the toilet,
they'd sit on this special stool, do what they had to do,
which would land in a bowl of sand on the floor underneath this stool,
and some rather unlucky servant would
have to come along, take the bowl,
and then they'd throw the contents out on the surface
of the desert, where the very hot sun would immediately
dry any contents and kill all the bacteria,
all the germs that would be found in whatever was in the bowl.
So it was a very, very clever way of dealing with the waste that
all of us produce on a daily basis. Very clever solution.
It's amazing to think that 3,500 thousand years after they lived
we can still discover
so many details about the lives of Kha and Meryt, and all thanks to
the hundreds of fascinating objects discovered in their tomb.
Kha and Meryt are two ancient Egyptians who lived 3,500 years ago.
Their home was this desert village, now known as Deir el-Medina,
but which they called Pa-demi, which just means "the Village".
The tomb of Kha and Meryt was discovered by
an Italian archaeologist in 1906, just over 100 years ago.
It was packed full of all their belongings,
now kept in a museum in Turin in Italy,
and these tell us so much about their lives.
We know that Kha and Meryt were husband and wife
but how did they meet and fall in love?
How did they marry, and did they have any children?
But it isn't just their belongings that can help us
answer these questions.
There are also clues to be found around their village.
On the edge of the village is a place called the Great Pit,
which became a massive rubbish dump,
and when archaeologists began to excavate this area by digging down
they made a remarkable discovery.
And this is what was found here,
literally tens of thousands of these pieces of pottery and stone,
some with pictures, many more with words,
giving us the real history of the village,
because these are their notes, their reminders, their love songs,
their laundry lists, the very voices of this village.
And it's these ancient letters, lists,
notes and poems which tell us so much about how couples
like Kha and Meryt might have met and fallen in love.
Here are the words to a typical love poem that was
found near the village.
"Your hand is in my hand.
"My body shakes with joy.
"My heart is so happy because we walk together.
"To hear your voice is like pomegranate wine.
"I live just to hear it."
Such poems were very popular in Kha and Meryt's time
and some of the titles sound like modern pop songs today.
There's Your Love, Down To The River, All Night And All Day.
I wonder if Kha or Meryt ever sang any of these to each other?
When a couple fall in love today, they may decide to get married.
In ancient Egypt they didn't have the same kind of wedding ceremony
that we have but there was something called bringing the bundle.
To bring the bundle meant you wanted to indicate your desire to
move in with the person who took your fancy.
You'd bring all your belongings in a bundle to the person you loved.
If they agreed, you'd move in together
and become husband and wife.
It seems both men and women could decide to bring the bundle.
Girls could be as young as 12,
while boys were usually older teenagers.
Now, although the ancient Egyptians didn't have a marriage ceremony
as we would understand it - they simply moved in together -
they nevertheless would exchange love tokens,
quite often in the form of rings.
Almost all of Kha and Meryt's belongings
are now in a museum in Turin in Italy.
This ring was discovered tucked under the funeral mask that
was placed over Meryt's face when she was buried.
It's so precious it's not yet on display in the museum.
It spent all those thousands of years just tucked away,
hidden away within Meryt's own wrappings.
This is an incredible thing to hold.
It represents the love between Kha and Meryt.
The ring has the image of a cow on it, which represents
one of the goddesses that Meryt would have worshipped.
Her name was Hathor, the powerful goddess of many things,
including love and motherhood.
All ancient Egyptian women wanted to be like Hathor.
She's like a modern female celebrity that all women aspire to be.
She had it all and she was worshipped here.
Although only priests,
priestesses and royalty were allowed inside temples like this,
ordinary people would also come here, getting as close as they could
and praying to Hathor to help them have a baby.
It's possible Kha and Meryt would also have prayed to Hathor
and asked for her help.
And perhaps she did help,
because they had at least three children, two sons and one daughter.
We know Kha and Meryt had children because their son Nakht
is shown painted on one of their boxes found in their tomb.
Two of their children are also shown on the walls of this building,
called a chapel.
After Kha and Meryt died,
their children would come here with flowers
to remember their parents and to pray and even to talk to them.
Their daughter is pictured here several times.
She was also called Meryt, after her mother.
And this is Meryt the mother, here,
and this is Meryt the daughter, behind her.
The pictures on the walls of this chapel also give us clues
about the things Kha and Meryt enjoyed during their lives.
Here we have Kha and Meryt's band.
These are the musicians playing their music.
Modern musicians have studied music scenes from Egyptian tombs
and made copies of ancient instruments to create
the sort of music that Kha and Meryt may have listened to.
So Kha and Meryt will have listened to music rather like this.
And we also know they enjoyed playing board games.
Now, we're playing the ancient Egyptian game of Senet.
It's a board game that the Egyptians absolutely loved.
It was the ancient Egyptians' version of turning on a soap opera
on TV at night, putting their feet up and enjoying themselves.
It's wonderful to think that because of the discovery
of Kha and Meryt's tomb just over 100 years ago
we can now learn so much about them,
including the love they had for their family and for each other.
Archaeologists have spent many years discovering
and studying ancient Egyptian tombs,
so that we can learn more about this fascinating period of history
and find out about the people who lived at this time.
I'm about to go deep underground into an ancient Egyptian tomb,
the places where the Egyptians went when they died.
And it's really, really deep, really, really dark
and really, really dangerous, so I'm going to have to be careful.
This tomb belonged to a man named Kha, who lived 3,500 years ago.
He built it for himself and his wife Meryt.
Their tomb remained secret for thousands of years
but just over 100 years ago
it was discovered by an Italian archaeologist.
How wonderful to have been in that team of archaeologists
who came down that day in February 1906.
A procession of men eager to know what lay at the end of this
really atmospheric series of tunnels and chambers.
At the end of the tunnel lay a small room known as a burial chamber.
Oh, and a little colony of bats. I love bats.
They certainly picked a great spot to live in.
Here the archaeologists found the mummies of Kha and Meryt,
still in their coffins.
But what a marvellous burial chamber.
Very plain, there's no decoration in here.
But it was also packed with a treasure trove of amazing objects,
the prized possessions of Kha and Meryt,
now stored in a museum in Turin in Italy.
The ancient Egyptians believed they could use all these things
in the afterlife, their version of heaven.
The discovery of Kha and Meryt's tomb was very unusual,
because most other tombs in the village had already been
broken into by thieves, who'd stolen their precious contents.
But Kha was clever.
He built his tomb in a very secret spot
so it would be difficult for tomb robbers to find it.
The importance of having a well-hidden tomb was something
he'd learned in his job as an architect.
But Kha wasn't just any architect.
He designed and built magnificent tombs for Egyptian royalty,
the great pharaohs themselves.
And his special work tools, found in his tomb, are now
kept in the museum in Turin, like this one.
This is called a cubit.
It's a bit like a ruler and was used to measure with.
And here's another cubit, which was also found in Kha's tomb,
but this one is covered in gold.
Now, it's a real honour to be allowed to hold this.
And to think Kha himself held this about 3,500 years ago.
He was given it as a reward for his magnificent tomb building.
The ancient writing, or inscription, on this cubit
shows it was one of the presents given to Kha by the Pharaoh
as a reward for all his hard work.
It was too precious to be used when Kha was working,
and instead would have been displayed like a trophy or a medal.
And he really did deserve it,
because it could be really tough building the royal tombs.
To find out more about Kha's work, I'm travelling to
the Valley of the Kings, where the tombs of the Pharaohs were built.
Here I'm meeting expert Steve Cross,
to visit a tomb that was never actually finished.
I'll follow in your footsteps.
'These are copies of some of the tools Kha's workmen would have used.'
We have a few of the small copper chisels,
replicas of Kha's tools that the decorators would have used
for the fine engraving, cutting out the hieroglyphs into the walls.
For actually cutting the walls when excavating the tomb
they used much larger chisels than these, something more like this size.
Up to about two centimetres wide. Well, feel the weight.
-Very different. Heavy duty.
'If they came across a particularly hard piece of rock
'they'd use a heavy stone called a dolomite pounder to chip it off.'
Much more power.
The tools were made of very valuable metal
and at the end of each day they'd be weighed to make sure
the workmen hadn't chipped off any metal to steal.
The further along the workmen got cutting through the rock to build
the tombs, the deeper underground they went and the darker it became.
This is a lamp filled with sesame oil just like the ones Kha
and his workmen would have used to see in the dark.
Can you imagine if this was your only source of light,
in one of these really, really dark, pitch-black almost, rock-cut tombs?
Not only that, but you were hammering away with metal and stone tools,
chips of stone flying everywhere
and you couldn't always see what you were doing.
It's certainly not a job that I'd want to do.
One royal tomb could take 40 men or more many years to build.
But once it was finished, what would a tomb like this have looked like?
This is the place where my favourite pharaoh, Amenhotep III, was buried.
It's a tomb that Kha actually designed
and built with his team of workmen.
It's closed to the public,
but we've been given special permission to go inside.
It's so exciting to be going in here
and following in Kha's wonderful footsteps.
The colours are fantastic.
Just think, Kha and his men designing these images,
it's taken my breath away.
I think the amazing detail in this tomb really does show why
Kha deserved his royal rewards like the golden cubit.
It's remarkable that 3,500 years after he died,
we can still appreciate some of Kha's greatest achievements.
If it wasn't for the work of archaeologists, who are still
exploring tombs like this one, we'd know far less about them.
These tombs are still revealing their secrets.
Let me introduce you to Kha and his wife Meryt.
These are two ancient Egyptians who lived 3,500 years ago.
But why on earth are they still here?
Their bodies haven't rotted away and that's because they were mummified.
They were preserved in a very careful way.
But why were they mummified?
And, more importantly, how on earth do you mummify anyone?
The Egyptians believed that even when you died,
your soul stayed alive and travelled to the afterlife,
a kind of heaven where you could live again for ever.
But because your soul could also come back into your body,
you had to look your best, just as you had done in life.
And this meant the ancient Egyptians had to find a way to stop
the body from rotting in such a hot climate.
So this is where mummification came in.
It was a process which had several stages and took 70 days.
The first thing the Egyptians did would be to take out
all their insides, starting with the brain.
They usually used a metal hook, like this one, which they'd stick
up the nose and then they whisked very vigorously inside
the top of the skull and allowed the brain to come out down the nose.
The next thing would be to take the inside of the body out
and they did this with a piece of volcanic glass called obsidian.
They used this to make a cut in the lower left side of the body,
just here, a very clean cut.
The people who did the mummification would stick their hands inside
and pull out all the internal organs and preserve them separately
and put them in jars called canopic jars.
The only thing they left inside the body was the heart,
so that would be left here, because for the Egyptians,
they thought it was rather like the brain.
It was the thing that allowed people to think and to feel,
it was the seat of all learning. So they left the heart in the body.
Then they would dry out the body with a salt called natron.
But the mummies of Kha and Meryt were prepared differently
because their insides were not removed.
Although their mummies have never been unwrapped,
they have been studied using X-rays and computerised scans.
This one shows the inside of Kha's skull, and although the brain
has dried out and shrunk, it's clearly been left inside.
This is because the Egyptians were still trying out different
and more effective ways to mummify people.
The scans also show that underneath Kha and Meryt's wrappings,
they wore special jewellery and charms known as amulets,
which the Egyptians believed would help protect them
on their dangerous journey into the afterlife.
This shows the outline of huge necklace that Meryt is wearing.
And to find out what this necklace might actually look like,
I've come here to the Petrie Museum in London where they have
Egyptian jewellery found in tombs from the same time as Kha and Meryt.
This beautiful necklace is very similar to the one
we can see in Meryt's scan.
It's the typical Egyptian necklace that you see in the tomb scenes
and in the art.
It's basically made up of numerous little moulded amulets that
have been made in these sumptuous jewel-like colours.
This is exactly the same thing that Meryt still wears.
Her mummy is still adorned in this beautiful broad colour,
which we can see on the image of Meryt here.
The green amulets represent lettuces and the blue ones, grapes.
Both of these are like good luck charms linked to the gods that Meryt
worshipped in her life and wanted to still worship in the afterlife.
From Kha's scan, we can see that underneath the gold jewellery
all around his neck,
he also wears a type of amulet known as a heart scarab.
It lies on Kha's chest above his heart
and it's very similar to this one.
The Egyptians thought that one would be judged in the next world
for any crimes committed in life.
You had to answer to the gods.
Sometimes the heart might give false witness against you.
The heart would jump up and say,
"Well, actually in life the individual did this or that."
So the heavy heart scarab was a means of suppressing the heart,
keeping it quiet.
The spell implores the heart to keep quiet,
do not give full witness against me.
Basically, "Shut it."
After this special jewellery had been placed on their bodies,
Kha and Meryt were wrapped in an enormous amount of linen strips
up to 200 metres long.
Their bodies were then placed in their coffins
and taken to their underground tomb.
They were now ready for their journey to the afterlife,
where they would live for ever.
The ancient Egyptians believed that mummification was needed to
preserve their bodies for the afterlife.
But mummification has also preserved Kha and Meryt's bodies for us,
so that we are able to study them and learn about their lives
and deaths 3,500 years ago.
Kha and Meryt are two ancient Egyptians who lived 3,500 years ago
in a small village between the River Nile and the desert.
In 1906, their tomb was discovered by archaeologists.
And their mummified bodies and almost all their belongings
found in the tomb were brought to a museum in Turin in Italy.
In this room is pretty much everything that was
found in the tomb of Kha and Meryt.
Their jewellery and cosmetics, their furniture and clothes,
even their food and drink.
Because the ancient Egyptians thought they'd need all
these things in death, in the afterlife,
because this was their version of heaven.
The ancient Egyptians really loved life
and wanted it to last for ever.
They believed that death was like crossing the River Nile,
and that the afterlife would be just like their life in Egypt,
free from any dangers or illness.
Here they would become immortal, which means they'd live for ever.
But to get to the afterlife, you had to go on a long
and dangerous journey through the underworld.
So they made special guide books called the Book Of The Dead,
which would help and protect them and make sure they reach the afterlife.
This wonderful thing is Kha's Book Of The Dead, which is
really just a collection of magical spells that allow him
to find his way into the next world.
The spells are written out in this papyrus,
it's a sort of paper made from reeds,
which are dried and stuck together.
In fact, our word "paper" comes from the word papyrus.
Kha's Book Of The Dead is written on a rolled up papyrus scroll
nearly 14 metres long and this is a copy.
All of it is covered in these wonderful little signs,
this picture writing called hieroglyphs, which is how the
Egyptians wrote their language down.
In this case, all these little signs and symbols give all the secret
spells that Kha and Meryt would need to get through into the next world.
And in Kha's Book Of The Dead,
we can even see a picture of his funeral procession.
These men are pulling his large coffin, known as a sarcophagus,
towards his tomb.
As today, the funeral was a very important ceremony
when someone had died.
This too was built around the same time as Kha and Meryt's was.
The pictures on the walls
show us exactly what an ancient Egyptian funeral procession
would have looked like.
All the dead man's belongings are being carried into his tomb
so he can use them in the afterlife.
You've got all sorts of things - the jars of perfume, the chair,
the flowers, the food and drink.
And, of course, this wonderful group of ladies here.
These are the mourners, and yet these aren't this man's relatives
or friends, they were hired to make the maximum noise possible.
The more crying and wailing you had at your funeral,
the more important people thought you were.
If you look really closely, they are crying.
They are such professionals they are crying so much,
forcing themselves to produce tears,
that their thick black eyeliner is running.
And any women that wear mascara understand the problem.
You start to cry, the make-up runs down your face.
The ancient artist betrayed this so beautifully,
with these dots of black coming down the women's faces.
After the funeral procession got to the tomb,
Kha's coffin was raised upright so a special ceremony
called "the opening of the mouth"
could be performed by his eldest son.
This magical ceremony was meant to bring all Kha's senses back
to life so he'd be able to see, hear, touch,
smell and taste again in the afterlife.
His mouth was magically reopened by touching it with a special
chisel called an adze.
Music was played to reawaken Kha's hearing,
while dancing helped bring back his sight.
Incense, perfumes and bouquets of flowers were presented
to his nose to restore his sense of smell.
And the finest food and wine presented to feed his soul.
The Egyptians believed that Kha's soul was now woken from the dead,
and safe within his mummy, was ready to face the long
and dangerous journey through the underworld.
It was a journey which they believed included many difficult
and dangerous tests set by the gods.
The last of these tests was known as "the weighing of the heart"
and was judged by Osiris, god of the underworld.
This would reveal if a person had been good or bad during their life.
If they'd been naughty, bad, done anything to upset the gods,
then the heart would be heavy with sin
and so the heart was literally taken up like a piece of meat
and thrown to this terrifying creature here.
This is the Great Devourer.
But if their heart was as light as a feather, the person passed the test
and their soul was allowed to enter the afterlife and live for ever.
In Kha's Book Of The Dead,
it describes the kind of afterlife he wanted.
His heart's desire was simply to sit with his beloved wife, Meryt,
in a garden in a summerhouse enjoying himself
and enjoying coolness of the north wind.
Having met Kha and Meryt, having entered their world,
I think they've really achieved a kind of immortality
because 3,500 years later, we're still talking about them.
The ancient Egyptians truly believed that to speak
the name of the dead was to make them live again.
And, surely, they do.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
A compilation of short films made specially for schools based on the BBC Two history series presented by Dr Joann Fletcher. Egypt captivates us like few other ancient civilisations - but what was it like to actually live there as an ordinary person, 3,500 years ago?
Egyptologist Dr Joann Fletcher goes on a fascinating journey in search of people like us - not the great pharaohs, but the ordinary people who built and populated this incredible ancient civilisation - creating a remarkable way of life and an extraordinary way of death.
At the heart of this series are Kha and Meryt, an architect and his wife who lived just outside the Valley of the Kings. They left behind a treasure trove of information, their extraordinary tomb, full of objects from their lives and deaths - from make-up to death masks, loaves of bread to lifelike figurines, even the tools Kha used at work in the royal tombs. Joann Fletcher uses this to travel into the remarkable world of these ancient Egyptians, both in life and the afterlife.