In 1906 a group of Egyptologists discovered an intact tomb. Was this the tomb of a king and queen? The objects appeared ordinary. No, it was the tomb of an ordinary couple and their names were Kha and Merit. They were a working-class couple and their tomb gave insight into the lives of ordinary Egyptians. In this episode, Joanne Fletcher looks at the afterlife of the Egyptians.
The Ancient Egyptians believed that your death was the most important moment in your life. If you could prepare for it, you could be in for a glorious afterlife. Both farmer and pharaoh made investments in the afterlife. In Thebes, death was the biggest business in town. Merchants were gathered together in this one place. An Ancient Egyptian could get flowers and purchase their funerary objects for their tombs.
Kha spent time not only preparing for his death but also preparing the places for the Pharoah’s when they died. Kha started his preparation by purchasing his own Book of the Dead. The Book of the Dead had incantations that helped the dead travel to the afterlife. It even protected the dead from demons. For the most part, the Books of the Dead were mass-produced. However, Kha’s version was made especially for him. Kha’s Book of the Dead would have cost six months' wages. Kha and Merit’s Book of the Dead was a rare find.
Joanne then explores Kha’s chapel. The chapel was close to Kha’s house and after Kha died he moved across the street. Both the living and the dead lived alongside each other. Kha’s chapel would be an oasis of peace for the family and was colorfully decorated. He used blues and greens, which were the most expensive colors to use. No expense was spared when the chapel was constructed. Fletcher feels that the chapel was a building to keep life going. This chapel was the first clue that would lead to Kha and Merit’s tomb.
An Italian discovered the tomb. His interest was amassing as many antiquities as possible. However, his tactics were a bit unscrupulous. Tombs were ransacked of their artifacts and then sold to the highest bidder. Eventually, he sold his collection to the King of Sardinia and a museum was created. Fletcher visits the museum and one of the most important pieces in the museum was a piece from Kha and Merit’s tomb. The piece shows Kha worshiping Anubis and Osiris, both Ancient Egyptian gods of the dead. This piece most likely was made during Kha’s lifetime and would lead to the discovery of Kha and Merit’s tomb.
The main investment Kha and Merit made for their afterlife would be their tomb. Kha may have gotten inspiration for his tomb from the royal tombs. Joanne explores an unfinished tomb. Although these tombs would have been out of bounds for ordinary Egyptians, Kha had the money and connections to get his tomb built. He may have traded his skills with his colleagues to get his tomb built. There was a great deal of time and resources involved in creating Kha’s tomb. Instead of building his tomb beneath his chapel, Kha hid his tomb to prevent robbers.
Another Italian was determined to find Kha and Merit’s tomb. He knew about them from the object in the museum and now he needed to find their tomb. Would he succeed in finding the tomb? What would Kha and Merit’s tomb tell him about this family? Tune into this documentary to find out more.
This would be a good episode to show in a class on Ancient Egypt because it discusses the afterlife and how the Egyptians prepared for the afterlife. It also talks about the lives of ordinary Egyptians. This would be a good addition to a teacher’s documentary arsenal.
Good morning, today we will be looking at the lives of ordinary Egyptians. In 1906 a tomb was discovered and it contained the remains of two ordinary Egyptians Kha and Merit. Joann Fletcher narrates the tale of these two ordinary people. What was Ancient Egypt like for ordinary people? Joann Fletcher finds out.
Kha and Merit lived in a large village, a suburb of Thebes. It was a tightly packed community. The village remains to provide a backdrop to the lives of ordinary Egyptians. Joann makes her way through the Egyptian Museum in Turin, Italy to introduce the viewer to Kha and Merit. Kha was an architect and Merit was his wife. Their mummies have never been unwrapped but their remains were scanned.
Kha was five foot six inches and had striking features. Merit was smaller at five foot two inches and had a wig. Their grave goods tell a different story about the couple. In 1906 their intact tomb was discovered, providing a unique view into the lives of ordinary Egyptians. There were tables, chairs, linens, cosmetics, shaving equipment, etc., were found in the tomb. There was enough material for future generations to study.
Joann looks at Merit’s dressing table. It was a stunning collection of cosmetics. These cosmetics show her to be a wealthy woman who took care of her appearance. How could she afford such expensive cosmetics? The village where Merit lived provides the answers.
She lived in a village that worked for the Pharaohs. They built temples and tombs. The village was not far from the Valley of the Kings, where the Pharaohs were buried. Kha was an elite craftsman, the very best Egypt had to offer. They were in charge of making sure that the Pharoah was taken care of for eternity. Most likely Kha and Merit grew up in this village.
Joann takes us to the Great Pit. The villagers wanted to be self-sufficient, so they dug for water. Unfortunately, they did not find water and so the pit became a dump. Here they dumped their trash and these remains tell archeologists what life is like in the village. The remains tell the story of love. The largest source of love poems comes from this village. Did Kha write Merit love poems? Perhaps, it is a lovely thought. It is known that Kha married Merit and may have signaled his intentions by bringing the ”bundle.” The bundle would have been a sort of dowery and a demonstration of his intentions. Kha and Merit were a devoted couple.
Kha and Merit lived in Egypt’s Golden Age. Ancient Egypt ruled the world. Kha worked for Amenhotep III and worked to ensure the pharaoh’s immortality. Part of Kha’s wages came in the form of a home, a tomb, and servants. The village had twenty houses and Kha’s house was one of the largest houses in the village. Joann explores one of the houses, going through each of the rooms. The state supports life in the village. Donkeys brought in water. There were grain stores. Kha would have received his wages as a grain ration. They also received fish and vegetables. The villages could trade their excesses for luxuries. Merit would take care of the home and Kha would take care of the business.
What else did Kha and Merit do in the village? What can their story tell us about ordinary Ancient Egyptians? Continue to watch this documentary to find out more.
If you wanted to take a break from the Egyptian Pharaohs, then this would be a documentary that you could show in a class. It is a nice glimpse of the life of ordinary Ancient Egyptians.
Amber Butchart explores the life of Dido Belle and recreates a dress that she wore in a portrait. For 200 years the portrait was described as Lady Elizabeth Murray. The other girl was described as a servant. Later it was discovered that the woman was her cousin Dido Elizabeth Belle. Dido’s story begins in the slave ships of the Mediterranean and ends in the English countryside. Amber has been fascinated by the portrait and wants to explore more about Dido’s life and the portrait.
Amber talks with Ninya about the dress in the portrait. Ninya will have a bit of a challenge in recreating the dress because large parts of the dress have been covered. Her team will have to take a good guess at how to pattern that dress. Sashes and a basket of fruit obscure the dress. They will look to additional portraits to see if they can get an idea of what the dress looked like. Amber has done some reading on the dress material and believes that it was silver. Ninya disagrees because of the drape of the fabric. The silver fabric would have been stiff and would not have provided any drape. She will be looking at a silk satin for the fabric. She will be looking at a grey, which could look like silver.
Dido Belle was born the illegitimate child of John Lindsley and Maria Belle. She was sent to live with Lord Mansfield, her uncle, and the Law Chief Justice. Amber visits Scone Palace where the portrait resides and the seat of the Lindsley family. The portrait would have been atypical for the period. The girls were presented as social equals. Africans were portrayed as servants during the mid-seventeenth century period. Dido’s dress hinted at the exotic, but it could have hinted at the idea of masquerading.
Ninya and her team explore the dress and how to pattern it. There are several ideas, but due to how hidden the dress is they are having trouble. The fruit and sashes are covering crucial areas. Harriett and Ninya are exploring books to see how to pattern the dress. The dress is not in the classic style. Did it point out how different Dido was? Did she own that garment? Or did the artist have it in his collection?
Dido was raised by the Mansfield’s and grew up at Kenwood house. It would have been unusual for a black person to have been raised. Her experiences would have been different. She worked on the grounds and took over household duties. The lady of the house would not have been expected to do these duties. Dido was a favorite of the family but was treated as an outside family. She was set apart from the family because she was illegitimate. She was listed in the household account books and Amber examines the account books. However, she would have never been accepted as a social equal even though the family treated her well.
Amber catches up with Harriett and Ninya in regards to the dress. The silk that was chosen would have been interpreted as silver. Amber also works on the turban that Dido was wearing. Once the turban is all pinned, it will be sewed together. Then the “jewels” will be added to the turban. To learn more about the dress continue to watch this episode.
I am so glad that Absolute History posted this series. This is an excellent series to show in history and a home economics class as well. This particular episode would be a good episode to show in an art history class because it could prompt a debate on what Dido’s dress looked like. If you have an independent study student, they put this episode on their list as one to watch.
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