The mastaba tomb of Meryteti also known as Meri

The mastaba of Meryteti is part of the total Mereruka mastaba complex. It is situated in the north-east sector of the necropolis of Saqqara, not far from the edge of the plateau, just to the north of the pyramid of Teti, the first pharaoh of 6th Dynasty. During this period power of the pharaohs was declining as can be seen in the comparatively small size and poor construction of their pyramids. However, increasing power attained by the large aristocratic families became apparent in the size and quality of the decoration of their mastabas.
The Mereruka mastaba complex was discovered by Jacques de Morgan, the then director general of the Services of Antiquities, in July 1893. The Service built up its walls, roofed it, and opened it to the public. However, by 1912 it had once more to be freed from encroaching sand. The first serious publication of the mastaba, by Prentice Duell, did not appear until 1936. This publication was very limited in textual descriptions and the black and white photos only covered Mereruka's own portion of the mastaba. A rather brief summary had been produced some 40 years earlier by Georges Daressy.

In more recent times (2004), Meryteti's part of the complex has been publish in great detail, by Naguib Kanawati and Mahmoud Abder-Raziq. Watetkhethor's part of the complex has also now been published (2008) by them and it is their intention to finally publish that of Mereruka himself.
Prof. Kanawati has kindly given his permission for the line drawings and some black and white plates from the publication to be used in the production of these pages.

The mastaba of Mereruka is the largest (by chamber count), and most complex, ever discovered. Originally it was constructed in two sections, the largest section of which was for himself; whilst the smaller section, in the south east corner, was for his wife Watetkhethor. Later, another section was added at the northern end, for their son Meryteti. It is this latter part of the complex which will be dealt with in the following pages.

To differentiate between the three sections, all upper chambers (usually referred to as the chapel) belonging to are prefixed with "A", those of are prefixed "B", whilst those of Meryteti are prefixed "C". Each section has its own shaft leading to a burial chamber, which in each case lies in close proximity under the false door belonging to the respective owner. Each section also has its own serdab.
A full general description of the triple complex, in particular the part belong to Meryteti, is below. This also includes the build history and conflict of ownership of the part referred to as the mastaba of Meryteti.


Meryteti, his "beautiful" (or chosen) name Meri, . The full name, with the extension of "his beautiful name Meri", is not found in his own chambers, this can only be found in the chambers of his father and mother. It is possible that this was removed from his own chambers by his brother Pepyankh (see below for more detail about Pepyankh's effect on his chapels). This part of his full name was also (in part) removed from his father's chapels, but not from those of his mother.
He, like his father (but with not quite as many) was attributed with dozens of titles (see ), some of which were inherited, some purely honorific, but some were of functions which he actually performed. He would have held many of these before taking on the high office of vizier. Nowhere within the mastaba is there a comprehensive list in one place.
Out of these many titles, it is particularly worth noting that Meryteti, like his father, was " Vizier of the King (Teti) of Upper and Lower Egypt", an office which made him the second most powerful person in the state, as both Prime Minister and Chief Justice.

Mereruka, his "beautiful" name Meri , father of Meryteti, is portrayed possibly only once in his son's chapel, even though he was probably responsible for the start (if not the completion) of its build. Meryteti inherited many of his father's titles. For everything about Mereruka, and his part of the total mastaba, see the .

Watet-khet-hor, her "beautiful" name Seshseshet , mother of Meryteti, is not portrayed in his chapels, but only in her own and those of his father. She held no administrative offices, but did hold religious titles. She was "eldest daughter of the king, of his body", which made Meryteti the grandson of a king, very likely of Teti. See the .

Nebet was the wife of Meryteti. She held two titles:"royal acquaintance" and "priestess of Hathor, lady of the (southern) shrine of the sycamore". Her image can be found in chamber C1 and twice in C4. She is always described as "his wife, his beloved".

Ihy also found as Ihyemsaef was the eldest son of Meryteti and is depicted in C1, C3 and C4. From his representation in C4 it is clear that Ihy and Ihyemsaef are the same person. In C4 he is described as "his eldest son, his beloved", but elsewhere simply as "his son" or just portrayed in the place usually reserved for the son.

Niankhmin , another son, found only on the south wall of C3.

Memi , later called Pepyankh , was the step-brother of Meryteti and eldest son of Mereruka. He usurped Meryteti's extension to his father's mastaba and removed the "his beautiful name Meri" from the "Meryteti" on the inscriptions of both Meryteti's and some of those in his father's mastaba (but not from those in the section belonging to Watetkhethor). The chambers were eventually restored to Meryteti.

Ibnebu , was the sister of Meryteti and daughter of Mereruka and Watetkhethor. She is depicted only once in the total mastaba, in chamber B01 of Watetkhethor's section of the structure. She is named as "Her daughter, her beloved, of her body". Although she is shown as a fully developed woman, she is obviously young because she has her hair in a plait adorned with a disc.


Although the total complex is described on of the mastaba of Mereruka, the following describes it in relation to the Meryteti addition.

Since its appearance at the very start of pharaonic civilisation, the funerary superstructure known by its Arab name of "mastaba" (English "bench") basically consists of a solid mound, usually made of stone rubble covered with a facing of limestone blocks, carefully levelled and smoothed. It generally adopts the form of a truncated pyramid, a symbolic evocation of the original mound, the first land to emerge from the primordial swamp (the Nun) at the dawn of creation. Dynasty VI marks the height of the sumptuous development of the family funerary chapel, the magic interface between the world of the living and that of the dead.
Even though the external form of the mastaba did not radically change during the Old Kingdom, this was not the case with the interior spaces. Despite individual necropolis variations, a common global process of increasing size and diversification became apparent, no doubt affected by the sociological and historical reasons given above.

General description

After its restoration in the late 1800's and early 1900's, the overall external dimensions of the mastaba are : 23 metres east-west, 30 metres north-south extending to 41 metres when including Meryteti's addition and 4.5 metres high.

The entrance to the mastaba faces south, not east as was customary. This was probably due to an agreement between Kagemni and Mereruka. The reasons and effects of this change can be found in the pages covering the "Mastaba of Mereruka".

Internal description

The total complex (), usually referred to just as "Mereruka's mastaba" (most visitors thinking that it belongs only to Mereruka), is the largest, by chamber count, in Egypt; containing no less than 31 upper chambers (which include both actual rooms and large passageways, but not the small interconnecting sections between chambers). From these, 21 are devoted to Mereruka himself (chambers prefixed A), 5 are designated to his wife Watetkhethor (chambers B) and 5 added for his son Meryteti (chambers C). In addition to these, there are 3 well shafts and their associated burial chambers. Mereruka's access shaft is located with chamber A11; those for both his wife and his son, are not accessed from within one of their chambers, but from the roof. Chamber B2 in his wife's section is actually a flight of stairs. Of Meryteti's 5 chambers, 3 were fully decorated. Although these walls were not painted (with the exception of the false door of chamber C3) they have survived to a greater height, in general, than those of his father.
The combined mastaba is an amazingly complex spatial and iconographic structure and is of considerable interest. Certainly, the intricate layout of the internal chambers could be considered as a maze; on entering with only a small lamp and no map, it would be very easy to become lost, were it not for the occasional sky-light.
With this total mastaba, the concept of a solid mound with "excavated" chambers is forgotten. This complex, though maintaining the normal outward appearance, internally contains more space than solid material. The numerous chambers are separated by solid walls, though of variable thickness. Its internal design has moved to the far extreme from the original designs.
An examination of the plan also shows quite clearly that the main area (chambers A), belonging to Mereruka himself, forms a rotated L-shape enclosing the suite of chambers devoted to his wife Watetkhethor (area of chambers B). At a later date the mastaba was enlarged at the northern end to accommodate the chapel complex for his son Meryteti (area of chambers C). This was accomplished after the reliefs in the pillared hall (A13) had been completed, with the entrance to Meryteti's first chamber cutting through the established reliefs.
Thus the great Mereruka embraces his wife to the south west and is accompanied by his son to the north; a symbolic family group.

Although each of the three sections can only be reached from the entrance on the south facing wall of the complex, they are each designed as independent multi-chambered chapels, and each with its own shaft leading to its own burial chamber.


As already stated, the mastaba of Mereruka originally consisted of only two sections, the larger part being for himself, with the south east corner being that of his wife, Watetkhethor. Later the mastaba was extended at its northern end, for their son Meryteti, an entrance for which was cut through the already fully decorated north wall of chamber A13, at its eastern end. It was almost certainly started towards the end of the reign of Teti and was most probably completed towards the middle of the reign of Pepy I.

It should be noted that Meryteti was not the eldest son of Mereruka, His eldest son, named Memi, later to be called Pepyankh, was the son of a previous marriage.

Because Watetkhethor is depicted with Mereruka throughout his chapel (A chambers) and that Meryteti appears in only three scenes in the last decorated chambers, it can be reasonably assumed that he was born after the decoration of his father's chapel was well advanced. He appears regularly in the chambers of his mother's chapel, consistently as "Her eldest son", thus it seems reasonable to assume that her chambers (or at least the decoration of them) were started after his birth.

The chambers of chapel "C" was presumably prepared for Meryteti by his father. Nims (see bibliography) suggests that 'Meryteti bore the high titles of Mereruka as his hereditary right and that he was shown as an adult in anticipation of his attaining manhood. That Memi (the real eldest son of Mereruka by a previous marriage) was passed over and that Meryteti becoming heir of Mereruka was probably due to the position of Meryteti as grandson of the King, Teti'.
Meryteti's good fortune appears to have changed with the death of Teti (and probably his father), and the succession of Pepy I. At this point Mereruka's eldest son changed his name to Pepyankh and claimed his right to section C of the mastaba complex. Minimal changes to the inscriptions were made in favour of the new owner, but no changes were made to the scenes. The frequently repeated title "king's eldest son, of his body" was changed to "Meri, his eldest son, of his body" which could also apply to Pepyankh. The name "Meryteti" was replaced by "Pepyankh"; no other titles were erased. Some changes were made with respect to Meryteti in Mereruka's chapel, but none in the chapel of Watetkhethor.

Possibly after the appointment of Pepyankh to an important provincial position, the chapel reverted back to Meryteti. The restored owner then changed the "ankh" of "Pepyankh", which like all such names, occurs at the end of a set of titles. The Pepy cartouche was incorporated into a new title for Meryteti, that of "Inspector of priests of the pyramid of Pepy"; thus became .
Three more titles were added after this. When the changes and additional titles were required at the end of the text above horizontal registers, enough space was not always available; the text was thus extended downwards into the image area, frequently eliminating the end of the scene in order to make room.
The figures and inscriptions of Meryteti's wife and sons and also the names of servants are later additions to the original scenes. These probably relate to the re-ownership of the chapel by Meryteti.
It was at this time that Meryteti (it is assumed that it was he) hammered out the figures and names of his elder brother, from chamber A13.

However, the assumption that Pepyankh was able to usurp (even temporarily) the tomb of his younger half-brother might not be justified. Not only was Meryteti a nephew of Pepy I, but the change of ownership may have been mutually acceptable.

The following pages will only cover that part of the mastaba belonging to Meryteti himself. From here on these chambers will always be referred to with their "C" prefix, so as to differentiate them from any possible reference to the other two areas.

The detailed description of Meryteti's part of the mastaba now follows :