Dig Until You Find Blood: A Spatial Investigation of Menstrual Seclusion Practice at Deir el-Medina

Author(s): Anne Sherfield

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "SAA 2019: General Sessions" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Ethnographic investigations into menstrual seclusion practices worldwide show that investigating these behaviors is not only fruitful, but also integral in understanding a community’s ideology and social structuring. Texts dating to the New Kingdom and Demotic periods suggest that ancient Egyptians engaged in a menstrual seclusion practice that included a strong spatial component within the household. This material manifestation of Egyptian menstrual seclusion opens the topic to archaeological inquiry that will compensate our textual understanding of the behavior. To that end, this paper analyzes the access, viewshed, and movement possibilities within 28 domestic structures at the New Kingdom site of Deir el-Medina (1550-1070 BCE). The aim of these investigations is to determine whether or not the architectural layout of the houses allows for the intentional segregation of women away from the rest of the household. The results of these analyses dispute the common notion that the houses at Deir el-Medina were too small to contain menstrual seclusion behaviors. Instead, the analysis finds that every house contained a space that could have been used opportunistically for seclusion while a woman was menstruating. Additionally, two houses contained rooms with unusually limited access that may have been used specifically to house menstruating individuals.

Cite this Record

Dig Until You Find Blood: A Spatial Investigation of Menstrual Seclusion Practice at Deir el-Medina. Anne Sherfield. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 449409) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8449409

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: 24.653; min lat: 21.861 ; max long: 36.87; max lat: 32.769 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 25343

File Information

  Name Size Creation Date Date Uploaded Access
UntilYouFindBlood_SAA2019.pdf 40.01mb Aug 8, 2019 Aug 9, 2019 5:52:45 PM Public
Slides and accompanying presentation.