Ancient Egyptian laborers worked through the pain despite health care: new study
Mummy - YOUM7 (Archive)
By RANY MOSTAFA

CAIRO: A recent study on skeletal remains of workmen at ancient Egypt’s burial site of Deir el-Medina, has concluded that a state-subsidized health care plan was in place for workers who built the royal tombs.

Despite an comprehensive healthcare system, “several workers felt pressure to work through illness, perhaps to fulfill tacit obligations to the state to which they owed so much,” Anne Austin, a researcher specialized in osteo-archaeology at the Stanford Humanities Center’s History Department was quoted as saying by Stanford news website.

Austin has conducted a detailed study on skeletal remains of individuals of different genders, statuses, and occupations found at Luxor’s burial site of Deir el-Medina, in order to explore health care systems in ancient Egypt, according to Stanford news.

In her study, Austin also used the results of earlier researches on Deir el-Medina’s well-known textual artifacts of medical documents, bills, personal letters and administrative texts, which have been examined earlier by several archaeologists.

“These two data sets shed light on the applications and efficacy of health care in ancient Egypt through an understanding of both the physiological illnesses and social care at Deir el-Medina,” said Austin, adding that the workers were subject to  “significant occupational stress fueled by pressure from the state to accomplish their work.”

According to Austin, Deir el-Medina’s workmen had uniquely comprehensive health care, but sometimes could not take advantage of it.

In one of the examined mummies, she said she observed evidence of inflammation in the bone due to blood-borne infection.

“The man clearly had been working while this infection was ravaging his body. He would have been working during the development of this infection,” Austin told the Stanford site. “Rather than take time off, for whatever reason, he kept going.”

The ancient workmen’s village of Deir el-Medina is nestled in a small valley north of the Valley of the Queens on Luxor’s west bank. The village was founded during the reign of Thutmose I (1510 B.C. – 1482 B.C.) and flourished until the end of the New Kingdom Period (1580B.C.-1080B.C.), archaeologist Sherif el Sabban told The Cairo Post Wednesday.

“Deir el-Medina, which in Arabic means ‘monastery of the city’, is one of ancient Egypt’s most well-preserved settlements and was a highly skilled community of craftsmen who cut and prepared the tombs in the Valley of the Kings and in the Valley of the Queens, and were administered directly by the vizier,” said Sabban.

Being in an industrial zone famous for funerary furniture and items for the surrounding communities, The Deir el-Medina workers were better paid than the majority of their contemporaries throughout Egypt, added Sabban.

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