The name presumably derived from Memnon, roughly designating the area where, to this day, the majestic statues of Memnon’s colossuses stand in the fields on the west bank of the Nile at Thebes. In other words, this is the village that arose from dynastic times around MADINAT HABU or the funerary temple of Ramses III, known to travelers from the seventeenth century who described its Coptic houses as narrow and rather high. These habitations were cleared by the Chicago Institute in its efforts to record the great temple inscriptions between 1927 and 1933.
The village bearing that name is identical with the Coptic Djeme and the Demotic Jama or Jamu. That village grew into numerous subsidiary suburbs strewn over the hills of the west bank from Madinat Habu to DAYR AL-MADINAH and Dayr al-Bahri. In fact, the growth of this village into an extensive township must have taken place after the decline of Thebes in Ptolemaic times during the first century B.C. and the transfer of Theban economic and industrial activity to Memnonia.
During the early Christian centuries, its Coptic population grew and transformed the ancient monuments into Christian religious foundations. From the recorded inscriptions on papyri and ostraca found on the site, it transpires that a total of twenty-eight churches and monasteries must have existed within that region. Four of them were established inside the temples and can be identified, while most of the remaining foundations have completely disappeared.
- Bataille, A. Memnonia. Cairo, 1952.
- Crum, W. E., and G. Steindorff. Koptische Rechtsurkunden der achten Jahrhunderts von Djeme (Theben). Leipzig, 1912.
- Hölscher, U. Medinet Habu Excavations, 5 vols. Chicago, 1934-1954.