The Tuesday Tomb returns as a fortnightly feature with the tomb of Maya and Meryt. The Saqqara tomb was the first Egyptian tomb that I ever entered and it is one of my personal favourites.
Maya was Overseer of the Treasury and Overseer of Works during the reign of Tutankhamun in the Eighteenth Dynasty. He is also known to have served under the General Horemheb when he became pharaoh. He died in Year 9 of Horemheb’s reign and his wife, Meryt, was already deceased by this time. They were buried together in a tomb close to that of Horemheb in Saqqara.
The tomb was partially excavated by the archaeologist Karl Richard Lepsius in 1843 but was eventually covered by sand and lost again. The tomb was re-discovered in 1986 by a joint expedition of archaeologists from the Egypt Exploration Society in London and the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden, Netherlands and excavated between 1987 and 1991. They had begun their attempts to rediscover the tomb in 1975 and were finally rewarded 11 years later when Professor Geoffrey T. Martin and Dr. Jacobus Van Dijk located the burial chamber 18 metres below the surface.
Professor Martin said: “We were in total darkness for about 15 minutes…Suddenly we glimpsed wonderful reliefs and were extremely startled to find ourselves in the antechamber leading to a burial chamber. My colleague looked across at an inscribed wall and said, ‘My God, it’s Maya’.“
The tomb is very similar to that of Horemheb and is composed of a pylon, an outer courtyard, a statue chamber flanked by two storerooms, an inner courtyard, and three offering chapels. The tomb appears to be unfinished with columns running along the west side of the outer courtyard only. The outer courtyard has a mud floor and is lacking reliefs. The pylon is built from mudbrick rather that being finished in limestone.
The lowest subterranean section of the tomb comprises three beautifully decorated chambers. Relief scenes show Maya and Meryt before numerous gods and goddesses. The figures and texts are decorated predominately in yellow with some use of blue and black detailing.
Although the tomb had been plundered, fragments of jewellery, furniture and coffins indicate that the burial was a rich one. A beautiful limestone stela was found in one of the two chapels that were discovered outside of the tomb. The stela depicts a priest by the name of Yamen, offering to the deceased couple, Maya and Meryt.
It is presumed that the funerary cult of Maya and Meryt was left in the care of this priest by Maya’s half-brother, Nahuher, after he had taken care of the burial. Maya and Meryt had two daughters but no son to perform their funerary cult duties.
Many statues from the tomb have been on display in the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden since 1823 including a particularly beautiful statue of Maya seated beside his wife.
Skeletal remains found in the tomb have been analysed and appear to belong to Maya, Meryt and their relatives.
Bibliography and further reading:
Aston, D.A., and Aston, B.G., The Tomb of Maya and Meryt, III: The Pottery (in preparation).
Martin, G.T., et al., The Tomb of Maya and Meryt, I: The reliefs, Inscriptions, and Commentary (London, 2012).
Raven, M.J., et al., The Tomb of Maya and Meryt, II: Objects and Skeletal Remains (Leiden/London, 2001).
Saqqara.nl, Tomb of Maya and Merit (found in 1986): http://www.saqqara.nl/excavations/tombs/maya–merit
When I was asked to review this book, I was immediately excited. My own Egyptomania is what started me on my Egyptological path. From a young age, I collected articles, videos, magazines, photos, and fiction books about ancient Egypt. I’d drive my mother crazy asking her to buy me my ancient Egypt magazine so that I could add the weekly offering of hole-punched mini-articles to my ring binder.
The minute that I opened this book, I was greeted by Bob Brier’s account of his Egyptomania and, while his was on a far grander scale than my own, I enjoyed reminiscing about my own teenage collecting habits as he reminisced about bidding in auctions and trawling through antiques fairs and flea markets for anything remotely Egyptian themed.
I was fascinated to learn just how many items have been inspired by ancient Egypt through history – tea sets, cigarettes, pocketknives and even talcum powder have all been treated to an Egyptomaniacal makeover!
Brier recounts tales of the events that started the worldwide fascination with all things Egyptian, from the Romans’ obsession with obelisks, to Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign and Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb.
There is something for everyone in this book: adventure, Hollywood glamour, and astounding engineering feats. I particularly enjoyed reading about how ‘Cleopatra’s Needle’ came to be standing on the bank of the River Thames in London – I didn’t realise the sheer determination, courage, and sadness that surrounds this iconic landmark!
There is far more to Egyptomania than meets the eye, and Brier’s entertaining read will leave anyone with even a remote interest in ancient Egypt with a desire to clear their shelves for some Egyptian themed memorabilia.
Right, I’m off to hunt eBay for bits of Egyptian themed Wedgwood…
You can buy ‘Egyptomania’ here.
“The Ministry of Antiquities has agreed to hold an antiquities exhibition named “Egypt’s Sunken Secrets” in three European capitals for a year.
The Ministry agreed to an offer by Franck Goddio, founder of the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology, to hold this exhibition for 600 thousand Euros plus 1 euro on each ticket after the first 100 thousand visitors.
The exhibition will display 293 artefacts chosen from different Egyptian museums: 18 from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir, 22 from the Graeco-Roman Museum, 31 from Alexandria National Museum, 15 from Bibliotheca Alexandrina Museum and 207 artefacts from the Sunken Monuments Department.
First stop for the exhibition will be in the Arab World Institute in Paris between 7th of September 2015 till 7th of January 2016 then it moves to Berlin from 15th of April till 15th of August 2016 and the last stop in London from 15th of November 2016 until 15th of March 2017.
The exhibition is insured for 150 million Egyptian pounds” – via Luxor Times.
Read more here.
Earlier this month as a part of my honeymoon, I had the immense pleasure of visiting the wonderful treasure trove that is the Vatican Museums. Of course, I was heading straight for the Egyptian antiquities in the Museo Gregoriano Egizio (although I visited and thoroughly enjoyed many of the other amazing exhibits as well), and I was not disappointed as I stepped into the galleries.
The very first piece to catch my eye was an old friend of mine, the naophorous statue of the Late Period official, Udjahorresnet, a figure you will be familiar with if you have read my earlier posts about the Persian king, Cambyses, and the Apis bull. Having studied photographs of this statue and its inscriptions many times, I didn’t expect to be so captivated by it when seeing it in person. At 27.5 inches high, it really is the most beautiful little thing that I have seen in a long time but perhaps I am biased as it has always been a personal favourite of mine.
This type of statue were quite common in the Late Period (below) and would have been set up in a temple – this one in particular would have resided in the temple of the goddess Neith at Sais in the Western Nile Delta. The term ‘naophorous’ refers to the naos or statue held by the private individual depicted. One interpretation is that this type of statue and the protective manner in which the individual holds the image of the deity could be a means of ensuring that the individual receives reciprocal protection from the deity. Part of the inscription on Udjahorresnet’s statue supports this interpretation:
‘O Osiris, lord of eternity! The chief physician, Udjahorresnet has placed his arms about you as protection’.
MMA 1982.318 Naophorous block statue of a governor of Sais, Psamtik[seneb] (Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art).
The statue of Udjahorresnet is a particularly wonderful example of this type of statue because it is inscribed with a lengthy biographical text, the only one if its kind to be attested to the Late Period. It reveals much about the attitude of the Persian kings Cambyses and Darius I towards the native Egyptian religion. The inscription reveals the way in which both kings respected the native religion – Cambyses cleansed the temple of Neith of squatters and made offerings to the goddess and, similarly, Darius I restored the House of Life.
Statue of the goddess Neith (Source: Wikipedia).
The inscription reveals how Udjahorresnet helped the Persian kings to successfully rule over Egypt, not only as foreign kings, but also as pharaohs, advising them and even helping to compose their pharaonic titulary, ensuring that they would be accepted by the Egyptian people as king.
Not only is the statue staggeringly beautiful, but it is hugely fascinating in terms of what it reveals about this period of Egypt’s history and that is why it will always be one of my favourite pieces.
If you would like to read more about Udjahorresnet and the Persian kings, please take a look at my previous post on the subject, Dispelling the myth – Herodotus, Cambyses, and Egyptian religion #1
“A painting has been discovered on the walls of the tomb of Perseneb, a priest and steward who had been buried to the east of the Great Pyramid of Giza during the fifth dynasty, sometime between 2450 and 2350 B.C.
“Known since the nineteenth century, the [tomb] could hardly present any new principal features. Therefore, it was a real surprise to discover an Old Kingdom painting on the eastern wall of the central room,” Maksim Lebedev of the Russian State University for the Humanities told Live Science.
The painting had been covered with soot and dirt, and much of it has been damaged. Yet “none of the scenes has been lost completely. The remaining traces allow [for the] reconstruction [of] the whole composition,” he said. The images reflect the deceased’s high status, and depict boats sailing on the Nile River, agricultural scenes, and a man hunting marsh birds. There’s also an image thought to represent Perseneb with his wife and his dog” – via Archaeology.