Construction Created a Demand for Highly Specialized Artisans and Builders
Creating the burial chambers in the Valley of the Queens was a learning process, and laborers encountered structural problems as they cut into the rocky cliffside. The hills were limestone, a sedimentary stone that can be easily scratched and broken. The pliable nature of the limestone made it perfect for carving the tombs, but flooding and earthquakes frequent in this area further weakened it. The damaged stone increased the possibility of cave-ins, endangering the workers and the stability of the area.
In many cases, the workers abandoned their project to start another tomb elsewhere, creating many incomplete chambers in the funerary complex. As construction continued into the Nineteenth Dynasty, the wealth and power of the pharaohs created a demand for more lavish burials of the royal family. Increasingly specialized workers were hired to build the more sophisticated burial chambers. Instead of workers who were employed to dig holes in the rock, the tunnels, hallways, and large funerary rooms of the more elegant tombs required a particular knowledge of architecture and masonry.
These new skilled workers needed experience with stabilizing the stone and with creating multi-room structures, and they soon learned to change their environment to suit their purposes. They developed muna, a strong and pliable plaster that hardened to strengthen the fragile walls. The wealth and power of the Nineteenth dynasty pharaohs created a demand for more sophisticated burials of the royal family. The layout of the chambers changed from simple shafts to extensive collections of rooms. The invention of muna helped the workers created these more opulent chambers safely and decreased the likelihood of crumbling walls and abandoned sites.
The tombs at the Valley of the Queens became testaments of the pharaoh’s devotion to the deceased. The rulers of Egypt hired artists to decorate the walls with intricately painted reliefs. The muna used to fortify the walls gave these artists a blank canvas to begin their work. Over this plaster, the artists created beautiful artworks depicting the deceased’s journey into the afterlife. Some of the excavated tombs from the Nineteenth dynasty are some of the most beautiful examples of ancient Egyptian art.