Meryt-Neith, Pharaoh Regent of Egypt

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Meryt-Neith, Pharaoh Regent of Egypt

Place of Burial: Necrópole de Umm el-Qaab, Abydos (Egito)
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Djer Pharoh of Egypt . . and Herneith of Egypt
Wife of Djet, Pharaoh of Egypt
Mother of Den, Pharaoh of Egypt
Half sister of Djet, Pharaoh of Egypt and Iti Pharaoh of Egypt

Managed by: Joseph Frederick Strausman
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About Meryt-Neith, Pharaoh Regent of Egypt

Merneith (Meritnit, Meryet-Nit or Meryt-Neith) was a consort and a regent of Ancient Egypt during the first dynasty. She may have been a king in her own right. The later being evidenced by several official records. Her rule was in the thirtieth century B.C., for an undetermined period of time. Merneith’s name means Beloved by Neith and her stela contains symbols of that deity. She was Djet's senior royal wife and the mother of Den.

Merneith is linked in a variety of seal impressions and inscribed bowls with Djer, Djet and Den. Merneith may have been the daughter of King Djer, but there is no conclusive evidence. As the mother of Den, it is likely that Merneith was the wife of King Djet. The identity of her mother is never recorded. [2][3]

A clay seal found in the tomb of her son, Den, was engraved with “King’s Mother Merneith”,[4]. It also is known that Den’s father was Djet, making it likely, therefore, that Merneith was Djet’s royal wife.

Segment of King list from tomb of Den at Saqqara, Merneith is mentioned twice as King's Mother Merneith (mwt-nsw mr nt)

Merneith is believed to have become ruler upon the death of her husband, Djet. The title she held, however, is debated. It is possible that her son Den was too young to rule at this point, so she may have ruled as regent.

The strongest evidence that Merneith was a ruling queen is her burial. Her tomb in Abydos (Tomb Y) is unique among the otherwise exclusively male tombs. Merneith was buried close to Djet and Den. Her tomb is of the same scale as the tombs of the kings of that period. Two grave stela were discovered near her tomb. The stela show the name of the Merneith. Her name is not surrounded by a serekh however which is the perogative of a king. Merneith's name is not included in the King Lists from the New Kingdom, and a seal containing a list of pharaohs of the first dynasty was found in the tomb of Qa'a, the third known pharaoh after Den, but it contains no mention of the reign of Merneith.[5]

A few other pieces of evidence exist elsewhere about Merneith:

Merneith’s name appears on a seal found in the tomb of her son, Den. The seal includes Merneith on a list of the first dynasty kings. Merneith's name was the only name of a woman included on the list. All of the names on the list are the Horus name of the king. Merneith's name however is accompanied by the title King's Mother.

Merneith’s name may have been included on the Palermo Stone. [5]

Items from the great mastaba (Nr 3503, 16 x 42 m) in Saqqara where her name has been found in inscriptions on stone vessels, jars, as well as the seal impressions. In particular, there is one sealing from Saqqara which shows Merneith's name in a serekh.[5]

Merneith Enclosure. This is a group of tombs from the cemetery at Shunet el-Zebib. These tombs are dated to the time of Merneith. [6]

Merneith's name was found on objects in king Djer's tomb in Umm el-Qa'ab.

At Abydos the tomb belonging to Merneith was found in an area associated with other pharaohs of the first dynasty, Umm el-Qa'ab. Two stela made of stone identifying the tomb as hers, was found at the site.

In 1900 William Petrie discovered Merneith’s tomb and, because of its nature, believed it belonged to a previously unknown pharaoh. The tomb was excavated and was shown to contain a large underground chamber, lined with mud bricks, that was surrounded by rows of small satellite burials with at least 40 subsidiary graves.

The servants were thought to assist the ruler in the afterlife. The burial of servants with the ruler was a consistent practice in the tombs of the early first dynasty pharaohs. Large numbers of sacrificial assets were buried in her tomb complex as well, which is another honor afforded to pharaohs that provided the ruler with powerful animals for eternal life. This first dynasty burial complex was very important in the Egyptian religious tradition and its importance grew as the culture endured.

Inside her tomb archaeologists discovered a solar boat [8] that would allow her to travel with the sun deity in the afterlife.

Considered one of the most important archaeological sites of ancient Egypt (near the town of al-Balyana), the sacred city of Abydos was the site of many ancient temples, including a Umm el-Qa'ab, the royal necropolis, where early pharaohs were entombed.[9] These tombs began to be seen as extremely significant burials and in later times it became desirable to be buried in the area, leading to the growth of the town's importance as a cult site.

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Meryt-Neith, Pharaoh Regent of Egypt's Timeline

Necrópole de Umm el-Qaab, Abydos (Egito)