Lintel and Relief from the Tomb of the Overseer of Priests and Keeper of the sacred Cattle Mereri, Describing His Exemplary Life

First Intermediate Period

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 103

After the weak 8th Dynasty, no pharaoh claimed to rule over the whole country. Historians call the ensuing phase of Egyptian history the First Intermediate Period. At the root of the decline in political cohesion were serious economic problems. The ancient Near East underwent climatic changes at this time, and Egypt became increasingly arid. Particularly low annual flooding of the Nile exacerbated the situation. Credit for the eventual recovery goes to local leaders, who dealt with the difficulties region by region and instituted new methods of irrigation. Eventually, two major power centers emerged: a northern center governed from Heracleopolis Magna (Ehnasya el-Medina) just south of the Fayum entrance (Dynasties 9 and 10), and a southern center based at Thebes in Upper Egypt (Dynasty 11). Both entities managed to gain the allegiance of neighboring regions, and the Nile Valley became politically split in half, with the border fluctuating to the south and north of Abydos. Dendera was in the Abydos region and evinces shifting allegiances.

Mereri's titles indicate he had roles of some importance in the cult of Hathor of Dendera, including responsibility for the clothing for attiring the cult image. He built a very large mud brick mastaba at the site. The eastern facade had a single register autobiographical frieze as a cornice. The entrance, surmounted by an inscribed architrave, led via a passage decorated with relief into a long rectangular room where there were thirteen niches with stelae. The owner's false door was located in an inner offering room. From the north side of the mastaba an entrance accessed the burial chamber through a vaulted tunnel.

This fragment depicts Mereri himself holding his staff and a scepter. It is thought to have been placed in the passage leading into the first chamber, probably belonging with two registers of cattle being led into the tomb.

Lintel and Relief from the Tomb of the Overseer of Priests and Keeper of the sacred Cattle Mereri, Describing His Exemplary Life, Limestone

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