Steep commute gave ancient Egyptian workers osteoarthritis | Science Magazine

The Village of Deir el-Medina. Photo: Garry Shaw
Commuting to work can be a real pain, and it was no different in ancient Egypt. About 3500 years ago, the artisans who dug out and decorated the rock-cut royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings—the burial ground of Egypt's New Kingdom pharaohs—had to walk about 2 kilometers from their homes, over the Theban hills, to the royal necropolis for work. It was a steep climb, repeated week after week for years, leaving them suffering from osteoarthritis in the knees and ankles, according to a new study.

Egyptologists already knew a great deal about the village where the workers lived—Deir el-Medina, in modern Luxor—because of the vast amount of written material found there in the early 20th century. But they had paid little attention to the physical remains of the artisans and their families, found interred in tombs beside the village, their bones commingled after thousands of years of robbery. This has now changed thanks to research undertaken by Anne Austin, an osteologist and Egyptologist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

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