Deir el-Medina is the Arabic name for the village in the Theban necropolis. Once occupied by the pharaohs’ tomb-builders and the artisans of New Kingdom Thebes. It’s name means ‘Monastery of the Town’. Derives from the Coptic monks who occupied the Ptolemaic temple there during the early Christian period. But in ancient times known as ‘Set Ma’at’ (the Place of Truth) or simply ‘Pa-demi’ (the town).

Deir el-Medina

Tomb at the entrance of Deir el-Medina


We do not know exactly when the village founded. Bricks discovered in the original enclosure wall stamped with the name of Tuthmose I. Although Queen Ahmose-Nefertari and her son Amenhotep I of early Dynasty XVIII revered by the inhabitants. Suggesting that its origins may have been earlier. A cult temple of Amenhotep I situated at the northern end of the village. Little known about the earliest settlement here. Which destroyed by fire, but later during the reign of Horemheb the houses restored and the village expanded.

Ruins of Deir el-Medina

The remaining structures in the village today date from Dynasties XVIII, XIX and XX and excavations, restorations and study in recent years has been carried out by the French Institute of Oriental Archaeology (IFAO). The site has yielded a huge amount of information about the daily lives of the inhabitants, their families and relationships, as well as their working and living conditions. A great deal of textural material in the form of papyri and ostraka (large flakes of limestone or pottery sherds used for sketches and jottings) have been found, making it possible for archaeologists to outline detailed reconstructions of the social and industrial organisation of the settlement. A massive collection of figured ostraca has been recovered, especially  from ‘the Great Pit’, a wide deep hole to the north of the Temple of Hathor.

People thought the pit originally dug by the villagers in search of water. Such settlement sites are rare. There have been discoveries of similar communities at Giza, dating from the Old Kingdom and Kahun, from the Middle Kingdom, which together with Deir el-Medina enables us to build a more complete picture of the lives of the common people of ancient Egypt.