From Egypt, Memphite Region, Saqqara, North of the Djoser pyramid complex, Mariette D3, Egyptian Antiquities Service/Quibell excavations, 1907–08
Chapel: H. 213.4 x N-S axis: 434 x E-W axis: 117 cm (84 x 170 7/8 x 46 1/16 in.); Entrance: N-S. 55 x E-W. 137 cm (21 5/8 x 53 15/16 in.)
Rogers Fund, 1908
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 102
The chapel of Raemkai was originally built and decorated for an official named Neferiretnes, traces of whose name and titles can still be made out on the false door. Either Neferiretnes had fallen into disgrace, or his family had died out, leaving no one to care for his tomb. The reuse of the tomb for Raemkai was most probably by royal decree and took place before the reign of Isesi (ca. 2381 BC).
The inscriptions call Raemkai (the name means “the sun is my life force”) “king’s bodily son,” and he may well have been a true prince, although we do not know definitely from which pharaoh he descended. His offices were predominantly religious in charater, but one title ("representative of el-Kab") points to an assoiation with ceremonies around the royal coronation, indicating that Raemkai was, at least on occasion, close to the king's person.
The fine relief decorating the tomb includes among other scenes bird-catching, butchering, baking and brewing, and a large scene of the hunt in the steppes with lasso and dogs.
Search for "08.201.1" to find detailed information about the individual walls and scenes.
The tomb was built and decorated for a judge and inspector of scribes, Neferiretnes, who cannot be dated. Baud argues that the he built the mastaba in the reign of Niuserre. The decoration of the chamber walls was completed and belongs to the original concept.
At one point, the tomb was usurped by Raemkai ("the sun is my life force"), who was a "king’s bodily son." He may well have been a true prince, although we do not know definitely from which pharaoh he descended. Verner assumes that he was a son of Djedkare. He removed the inscriptions on the false door of Neferiretnes, however, in such a superficial way that most can still be deciphered (see false door drawing). The process of reinscribing the false door was begun and carried out in a suspiciously crude way and left unfinished. The event of the short-term usurpation by Raemkai is unusual and unexplained. The affair cannot have lasted more than a very few days, when work was stopped again. One has the impression that the usurpation was an overnight coup and was stopped soon afterwards.
Since the reliefs are supposed to belong to the original owner, they cannot be used for dating Raemkai’s interference. His names and titles appear in a crude way on the false door. His office as chief lector-priest was religious in character, but the title "representative of el-Kab" points to an association with ceremonies around the royal coronation, indicating that Raemkai was, at least on occasion, close to the king's person.
The tomb of Neferiretnes/Raemkai belonged to the group of mastabas directly outside the northern enclosure wall of the Djoser complex, which were cleared by Mariette from 1851 on. Mariette drew a sketch plan of the interior of the tomb but he did not continue his work to the east, where he would have soon found the Perneb mastaba (see 13.183.3). From Mariette’s counting sequence, one assumes that the Neferiretnes/Raemkai mastaba was directly west of that of Perneb. Quibell’s counting does not support this conclusion because he separates this tomb from that of Perneb by 9 more tomb numbers. However, Neferiretnes/Raemkai was the earlier building in the area.
Several of these mastabas were dismantled by Quibell and sold to museums. Quibell says in the publication of his 1907/08 season: "Mariette, Mastabas, D.3: This tomb was this year taken down and sold to the Metropolitan Museum of New York." Unfortunately, no plan of the exterior or location of the mastaba exists. We therefore do not know how the tomb relates to the neighboring Perneb mastaba. Following Baud’s maps, only a small corridor would have separated the two tomb, suggesting that Raemkai was only accessible through a narrow passage along Perneb’s west wall.
The rectangular chapel was oriented north-south with two false doors opposite the entrance in the west wall. A side niche for storing cult equipment etc. is located behind the entrance passage, in the north wall.
The extraordinary fine relief decorating the tomb includes among other scenes bird-catching, butchering, baking and brewing, and a large scene of the hunt in the steppes with lasso and dogs.
Dieter Arnold, 2015
Discovered by Mariette between 1858 and 1863; recleared in 1907-08 by Quibell on behalf of the Egyptian Antiquities Service and sold to the Museum in 1908.
Mariette, Auguste 1889. Les Mastabas de l'Ancien Empire: Fragment [de son] Dernier Ouvrage. Paris: F. Vieweg, pp. 178–81, no. D3.
Lythgoe, Albert M. 1908. "Recent Egyptian Acquisitions." In The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, vol. 3, no. 12 (December), p. 221.
Quibell, James E. 1909. Excavations at Saqqara 1907-1908, 3. Cairo: Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale du Caire, p. 24, no. 903.
Phillips, Dorothy W. 1942. Ancient Egyptian Animals, Picture Books (Metropolitan Museum of Art), New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, pl. 9-12, 14.