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I am working on a Year 12 New Kingdom Pharaoh assignment. I have chosen Ramesses II and must determine if he was an effective king. I have decided that he was, but now I just have to provide the evidence.

What I am looking for is written archaeological evidence written by workers during and after Ramesses II reign. I need positive writings when Ramesses was king and negative things when he died.

I cannot find anything on Google. Does anyone know where I can find such information?

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    If you don't have any evidence, how did you decide he was an effective king? – Steve Bird Mar 8 '17 at 6:02
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    With respect, I think that you're meant to derive a conclusion after reviewing the evidence, and I'm hardly surprised that you couldn't find anything on Google. What makes you think that you even should be able to find anything written by workers? Did workers leave written documentation of their opinions? – Shimon bM Mar 8 '17 at 6:06
  • I have secondary evidence. I have been researching for a while but the teacher wants to see primary archaeological evidence. Well i wasnt sure if there was anything but i was told to look. And yes, there was written documentation. Most recovered from Deir El-Medina – Caitlyn Mar 8 '17 at 6:09
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    "Workers" aren't likely to have been literate. There's quite a bit (relatively speaking, of course) by supervisory-level people. One of the more interesting is a series of letters that served as the basis for Agatha Christie's mystery novel "Death Comes As The End": en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_Comes_as_the_End – jamesqf Mar 8 '17 at 6:12
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    "we have to make a decision first (write up our hypothesis) then find information to support it" - that's very bad science, it leads to cherry-picking evidence to support the conclusion. – Steve Bird Mar 8 '17 at 6:16
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We actually have a lot of good evidence written by workers from that period. The bulk of that evidence comes from the workers' village of Deir el-Medina which housed the men who built the tombs in the Valley of the Kings (and their families) during the 18th to 20th dynasties (Ramesses II was 19th dynasty).

It is probably not surprising that the people who built the tombs of the Pharaohs also had pretty spectacular tombs themselves, and you can get a lot of information from the inscriptions in these tombs. Perhaps more important though are the records of the daily life of the villagers in the form of letters and many other documents written on papyrus and ostraca (including a record of the first known workers strike in history during the reign of Ramesses III).

From studying these records, we can even identify individual workers by name. In many cases, we know what as particular worker's job was, which house they lived in, and when they were given time off to work on their own tomb or to brew beer.

Thousands of these documents have been transcribed and published, and thousands more remain to be transcribed in the ongoing project. The records were written by people at all levels within the village society, women as well as men. Since these workers were directly employed by the Pharaoh, you will find a lot of evidence which will help you determine whether Ramesses II was indeed an effective king, and also whether his successor, Merneptah, was any better or worse.

A Google search for "Deir el Medina primary sources" will give you plenty of web-sites documenting the kind of primary sources you are looking for.


I should warn you, however, it is always dangerous to derive your conclusions before you have reviewed the evidence. If you use evidence selectively to support your conclusion, you are going to look very foolish when your teacher produces evidence you have ignored to challenge you.

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You're not going to find any written evidence from workers, not only because they were usually illiterate but also because the Pharaoh was a king-god, therefore he was infallible to his people.

Most of what we know about Egypt is religious stuff, basically because it was written in stone or was copied once the original got in bad condition, whereas common people probably didn't have any way to preserve their writings.

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    Santiago - officially the pharaoh was a god- king and infallible. But no doubt many commoners often grumbled about the Pharaoh and other high people. Of course that wouldn't be written down except for statements like "during the famine the people complained of hunger" and so on. – MAGolding Mar 8 '17 at 15:37
  • Note that, while the Chinese can do it, pictographic writing systems like hieroglyphic aren't particularly conducive to creating popular literature. It wasn't until the advent of the Demotic/papyrus system in the 6th century BC that it would even be feasible. – T.E.D. Mar 8 '17 at 21:25
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Back then writing systems were more difficult to master, writing and copying was very labor-intensive, and reading wasn't a particularly useful skill for a laborer. If you could do that, you wouldn't be a laborer. It would be kind of like today asking for examples of available computer operating systems written by janitors.

However, since writing was relatively exceptional, we do have moderately complete lists of extant ancient Egyptian papyrus (papyri?). You could look through that and see if anything looks useful for your project.

  • Yet there is abundant graffiti around all the tombs and pyramids, tucked away in places that would be out of sight. – Pieter Geerkens Mar 11 '17 at 6:31

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