Starting from a low base - according to him -, May is an extraordinary figure, who managed to acquire some of the highest offices and titles in the Egyptian state. The start of his career owed everything to Akhenaten's support, and then he managed to pass through all the reigns of the Amarna and post-Amarna period keeping or regaining his high offices.
Perhaps May is one of those opportunists that Akhenaten chose to replace some members of the old political class with men he trusted. As well May was equally able to win the king's trust, since he was granted the right to have a Tomb built on the site of Amarna, TA 14.
Perhaps disgraced by Akhenaten, it is not clear what became of him between Akhenaten's death and under his immediate successors. But, as soon as the young Tutankhamun ascended the throne, May, who changed his name to Maya, became once again one of the principal figures of the Egyptian state and remained so until his death during the reign of Horemheb. During this period, he had a remarkable temple tomb built in the necropolis of Saqqara.
In the following description, we will examine the first 'Amarna' phase of May's journey. After the return to Amun centred orthodoxy, the man whose name changed into Maya continued his career at the summit of the state, between Thebes and Memphis where he would end his life. This second part will be found in .
Does Maya's name correspond to one or two people, one Memphite, the other in Amarna?
The problem was complicated by the fact that Maya's tomb in Saqqara remained untraceable, while May's tomb TA 14 has never disappeared. It was not until 1986 that Saqqara's tomb was rediscovered by a joint EES-Leiden mission. One of the directors, Jakobus van Dijk, was then finally able to gather the evidence together to assert that May and Maya are one and the same person, who began his career under Amenhotep IV-Akhenaten, or even under Amenhotep III, since he probably grew up in the latter's court.
The Memphite Maya could therefore be identified as having been one of Akhenaten's courtiers, a high-ranking figure named
"May" (without the final "a"). The study of a Copenhagen statue base confirms that Maya's name can sometimes be written without the final "a". This May spelling remains in use at the beginning of Tutankhamun's reign, while from the end of the reign, the name is always written with a terminal "a".
"Prince," "Governor," "Royal Chancellor," "Sole companion," "King's Scribe," "General of the Lord of the Two Lands," "Superintendent of the House of Sehetep-Aten," "Overseer of all the King's works," "Scribe of Recruits," "Fan bearer on the right of the King," "Steward of the House of Waenre, (Akhenaten) at Heliopolis, Supervisor of cattle of the Temple of Re in Heliopolis".
Thus, May exercised several of his duties outside of Amarna. It should be remembered that Valérie Angenot has shown that, most likely, the name
"Akhetaten" "The Horizon of Aton" is not exclusively reserved for the city of Amarna, but may refer to the location of other Aten centres of worship located elsewhere in the country.
May's sphere of activities include Heliopolis, the Greek name for the ancient "Iounou", Capital of the 13th Nome of Lower Egypt. Heliopolis is dedicated to the sun god Re to whom was dedicated a gigantic temple, with a temenos larger than that of Karnak; there is also a temple to Aten and a royal palace that was probably more ceremonial than functional, of which May is the superintendent.
Heliopolis is also the city of the sacred bull Mnevis, as Memphis is that of the bull Apis. Mnevis held a singular importance for Akhenaten for reasons that elude us. Indeed, it is on the very first boundary steles that border the site of Amarna (in the "preliminary declaration") that he orders the preparations for a burial of Mnevis - which never happened.
From this list of titles, we can see that May has been entrusted by Akhenaten with the religious stipends that make him one of the most powerful men in the country. No doubt the courtier listened with particular attention (real or feigned) the "teaching" of the king and put it into practice. Perhaps May was one of those opportunists who surrounded Akhenaten, men who owed him everything, whom the king had chosen to replace some members of the old political class. And May earned his trust, since, in addition to his many titles, he gets the right to have a tomb built on the site of Amarna, the TA 14.
There are some differences between the titles found in Amarna and those later found in his Memphite tomb. We note above all the absence in TA 14 of a major title that appears in Maya's tomb in Saqqara, that of
"Overseer of the Treasury"; on the other hand, the titles of
"Fan bearer on the right of the King" and
"Overseer of all the king's works" are not mentioned in Saqqara.
For Van Dijk, this is not an insurmountable obstacle to considering him the same character. A career change is the likely cause, as shown by the case of Akhenaten's chief physician, Pentu, who later became one of Tutankhamun's two Vizirs.
May's favour with Akhenaten is attested by the right to have a tomb built in Amarna, numbered TA 14.
May's Amarna tomb remained unfinished, as did all the private tombs on this site. In May's case, the only completed part is the entrance corridor. Inside the tomb, only one scene was sketched on a wall.
In the entrance hallway, May's figures and names, wherever they may be, have been erased, including those in the long autobiographical text on the southern width of the entrance hallway. All these elements, as well as part of the text, were not only erased, but also covered with a particularly tenacious layer of plaster. This posed a major problem for Norman de Garis Davies when he undertook the survey of inscriptions in the chapel and some glyphs could not be clearly identified. Nevertheless, it is still possible to read the text, as we will see below.
This deliberate attempt to erase May's memory led Davies, then Hari and Schneider, to conclude that the official had fallen out of his way.
But there's another possible explanation.After the return of the court to Memphis and Thebes and the restoration of the traditional religion by Tutankhamun and his successors, the individual, whose name is now Maya, may want to erase the traces of his Amarna past. This is all the more so since he was entrusted with a set of missions designed to make the reign of the "heretic" forgotten. Indeed, according to Van Dijk, it was probably he who was appointed to organize the transfer of Akhenaten's body from Amarna to the Valley of the Kings, in Thebes, during Tutankhamun's reign. He also oversaw the work on the second, ninth and tenth towers of Karnak, all filled with talatat from a dismantling of the temple to the god Aten that Akhenaten had built in Thebes. The inscriptions in the Memphite Tomb also indicate that Maya was directly involved in the restoration of traditional cults, being
"the king's spokesman for providing temples and shaping the cult images of the gods."May(a) himself may well have ordered the erasure of the autobiography in his former tomb of Amarna, followed by meticulous plastering. In it he described, among other things, the difference between his situation of birth, when he
"begged for his bread"and that of Akhenaten, rubbing shoulders with the princes; like many Amarna officials, one may therefore think that May was an opportunistic upstart. All this writing is accompanied by an insistent sycophancy that could be embarrassing once the king is gone.
This belongs to the southern group, which has 19 numbered tombs (TA 7 to 25). They are dug into the flanks of a low plateau, in rock of very poor quality. They are not as imposing as the tombs of the northern group, but are more diverse. They continued to be used for burials in later periods, especially from the 25th to the 30th Dynasty, a period in which the countless shards of pottery that still line the area date back to.
and lintel are masked by metal doors La façade est réduite. Jambages et linteau
sont masqués par les portes métalliques
The fore court that leads to the facade of the tomb is no wider than it. The workers dug down vertically into the gebel and really exposed this facade out of the ground, then into which they began to dig horizontally.
The lintel overhanging the door is hidden by the metal doors. It is almost destroyed, except at the northern end where fan bearers and attendants bent double are still visible. A fragment of the text describes them: "The servants of the king in their multitude, those who accompany their lord [... and who listen to] the voice of his person."
Also named are:
"The King's daughter, from his body, his beloved, Meketaten."
"The King's daughter, from his body, his beloved, Ankhsenpaaten, [born of] the Great Royal Wife Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti, may she live!" We will talk about her again.
• "The sister of the Great Royal Wife, Mutnedjemet."
One notices above the lintel that, despite the poor quality of the rock, a hollow moulding has been carved into the wall ().
Around the entrance, on the door jambs to the left and right, some are present. May's name and some of his titles, including Royal Scribe, were hammered out and then coated with a very sticky plaster that greatly hindered Davies during deciphering.
Left door jamb
A – Standard titles of Horakhty-Aten, and of the King and Queen.
"An offering which the king gives of the great, living,[Aten] who is in jubilee, lord of heaven and earth, who illuminates the Two Banks. May he cause me to see his beauty in the course of every day, his rays streaming down upon my breast."
"For the Ka of the great confidant of his lord, to whom all matters are said in order to raise them up before the Lord of the Two Lands: the fan bearer at the right of the king, the true [king's] scribe, his beloved, May, justified."
"[An offering which the king gives of the King's Ka which lives on Maât], the Lord of the Two Lands, Neferkheperure-Waenre, given life forever. May he grant a good funeral of his Ka' commanding in the district of Akhetaten, to the Ka of one who was excellent in the presence of the Lord of the Two Lands, who filled the ears of Horus with Maât, the general of the Lord of the Two Lands, the true king's scribe, his beloved, May, justified."
"[An offering which the king gives of the King's Ka which lives on Maât, the Lord of the Crowns, Akhenaten], long in his lifetime: may he grant entry and exit of the king's house, in the favour of the Good God, until the goodly revered state comes to pass."
"For the Ka of one whom the king made great because of his good character, whose position his (own) excellence made; the steward of the house 'Aten is Propitiated', the true [king's scribe, his] beloved, May, [justified]."
"An offering which the king gives of the King's Chief Wife, his beloved, the Lady of the Two Lands, [Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti], may she live forever continually. May she give her favours, established and lasting, and limbs united with the joy which is hers to give; for the Ka of the king's follower in his august falcon ship(??) The master of protocols, following after the Lord of the Two Lands, the overseer of all the works projects of the king, true king's scribe, his beloved, [May, justified]."
"[An offering the king gives of the great living Aten], lord of heaven and earth, who illuminates the Two Lands with his beauty: which he gives a sluiceful of water, a bellyful of breeze and a reception of favours in the presence of the Lord of the Two Lands. For the Ka of the Good God's favourite, one whose place in the king's house was exalted, the fanbearer at the right hand of the king, [the true king's scribe, his beloved, May, justified]."
"An offering [which the king gives] of the living King's Ka, which lives on Maât, the Lord of the Two Lands, Neferkheperure-Waenre,given life forever. May he grant life, prosperity, health and alertness in the presence of the Lord of the Two Lands, and a good lifetime while seeing the beauty of every day, without ceasing."
"For the Ka of one important in his office and great in his dignity, an official worthy of trust. The army commander of the Lord of the Two Lands, the true king's scribe, his beloved, May, justified."
"An offering [which the king gives] of the King's Ka, which lives on Maât, the Lord of Crowns, Akhenaten], long in his lifetime: may he grant a good remembrance in the king's house and permanence in the mouth(s) of his entourage."
"For the Ka of the one who was effective upon the heart of his lord, who recognized him as one who did effective things — the steward of the house of Waenre (Akhenaten) in Heliopolis, the king's true scribe, his beloved, May, justified."
"An offering which the king gives of the King's Chief Wife, his beloved, the Lady of the Two Lands, [Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti], may she live forever continually. May she grant an entry favoured, a departure beloved, and contentment in Akhetaten."
"For the Ka of one whom the king favoured, both when he was a youth and when he had reached the goodly revered state. The fan bearer at the right hand of the king, true king's scribe, his beloved, May, justified."