Victoria University Continuing Education

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The Tomb Builders of the Pharaohs


‘Day 18. They went up to the [Great] Valley
To seek out a place to cut the tomb of Weser-Maat-Re Setep-en-Amen (Ramesses IV).’
(Official journal records of Vizier)

Tutankhamun is, arguably, the most famous ruler of ancient Egypt, because of his spectacular burial in the Valley of the Kings. Ironically, his tomb is amongst the most modest of those built within the Valley over the 500 years it was used as the royal necropolis.

But who created this magnificent eternal resting place?

The New Kingdom pharaohs placed great importance on building a perfect royal resting place, so they maintained a community of the finest craftsmen, scribes and administrators, housed in a purpose-built village within walking distance of the Valley. The people in this vibrant community left us with an invaluable understanding of their existence in the form of Deir El Medina, their village, and the lives preserved within the archaeological record.

This lecture series aims to provide an insight into the lives of those who lived and worked at Deir El Medina during the New Kingdom, from their everyday duties to their religious practices.

Target audience:
This course is for anyone who is interested in ancient history, architecture, archaeology or classics.

Learning objectives:
By the end of this course, you will have:

  • increased your knowledge of the establishment and purpose of Deir el Medina
  • increased your awareness of ancient Egypt’s royal tomb-building processes
  • gained an understanding of village life and politics in New Kingdom Egypt
  • gained insight into the working week of a tomb builder
  • increased your knowledge of the home life of a tomb builder.

Course outline:
Each session includes a lecture presentation with the opportunity for questions and discussion.

Session 1: Deir El Medina – the Valley of the Kings and its creators
Session 2: Everyday life in Deir El Medina
Session 3: Religion, education and law in Deir El Medina
Session 4: Death and burial in Deir El Medina

There is a short break halfway through each session, and you are welcome to bring your own refreshments if you wish.

Sarah Vidler is a freelance consultant, guide and teacher of ancient Egyptian archaeology. She has led and co-led the two Victoria University study tours to Egypt.


‘Fantastic lecturer, succinct and engagingPyramids of Egypt participant, 2016

‘I really enjoy Sarah's courses they are always really well put together and presented. And obviously the subject matter is really interesting’ - Sekhmet’s Rage: A military history of ancient Egypt participant, 2015

‘The course was excellent, and Sarah was very knowledgeable and an engaging speaker’ Words and Pictures: The art and literature of ancient Egypt participant, 2015.


Relevant links:
School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies/ Te Kura Toirangi

For further information:
Continuing Education, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140
Phone 04 463 6556, Email:

Please note: Courses need a minimum number of enrolments to go ahead. If your course doesn’t reach the number required, we’ll have to cancel it. If this happens, we’ll contact you by phone or email about a week before the scheduled start date and arrange a full refund. Please check your emails regularly.