Mummy Monday: Merenre I

This week for Mummy Monday we are throwing it back to the 6th dynasty, which is a rarity for preserved mummies. Today we are talking about Pharoah Merenre I.

Life

Merenre Nemtyemsaf I was the fourth king of the 6th dynasty of Egypt, reigning from 2287 to 2278 B.C.E. He was the son of Pepi I and Ankhesenpepi I and grandson of the female vizier Nebet and her husband Khui.

  • Horus Name
    • Hr anx xaw
      • Horus, living of apparition
  • Nebti Name
    • nb.tj anx xaw
      • The Two Ladies, living of apparition
  • Golden Falcon Name
    • bik.wj mnx.wj nbw(.wj)
      • The two excellent golden falcons
    • bik.wj nbw(.wj)
      • The two golden falcons
  • Prenomen
    • mr n ra
      • Merenre
      • Beloved of Re
  • Nomen
    • nmti m sA=f
      • Nemtimsaf
      • Nemty is his Protection
    • or:
    • anti m sA=f
      • Antimsaf

There are royal seals and stone blocks that have been found in Saqqara that indicate that Merenre’s aunt, Queen Ankhesenpepi II was the wife of his father and himself. (I know this sounds weird, but remember that Egyptian kings frequently married their sisters, so his aunt would have been the sister of both Pepi I and Merenre’s mother.) This indicates that Merenre was probably the father of Pharaoh Pepi II, rather than Pepi I, as was previously thought. He was also the father of Ankhensenpepi III (as if two wasn’t enough), Input II, and Neith, which were all wives of Pepi II.

Rock inscription featuring Merenre I in Aswan

His reign was slightly longer than a decade, with the South Saqqara Stone crediting him with a minimum reign of 11 to 13 years. Merenre shared his father’s fascination with Nubia and continued to explore deep into this region. In his 5th regnal year, he traveled to the 1st cataract on the Nile to receive tribute from the Nubian chiefs. He also began a process of royal consolidation, appointing Weni as the first governor of all of Upper Egypt and expanding the power of several other governors.

There are very few depictions of Merenre from his reign, but there is a small sphinx statue in the National Museum of Scotland (A.1984.405). His name is also attested to a hippo ivory box in the Louvre.

Ivory box with the name of Merenre I at the Louvre

Pyramid

Hieroglyph inscription of the Pyramid of Merenre I

Merenre built a pyramid in Saqqara, southwest of the pyramids of Pepi I and Djedkare. This pyramid was called Khanefermerenre (Ḫˁj-nfr-Mrj-n-rˁw), which meant “Merenre’s beauty shines” or “The Perfections of Merenre Appears.” Today it is mostly in ruins and it is not open to the public.

It was built 52.5 meters (173 ft 3 in) high, 78.75 m (258 ft 4 in) in base length with an inclination of 53 degrees. A 250 m (820 ft) long causeway was attached to the pyramid along with a mud-brick wall. Only traces of the mortuary temple have been found, presumably because construction was halted and never resumed.

The entrance to the burial chamber is on the north face which descends to a vestibule where another shaft leads to an antechamber. There were three portcullises in the passage. To the right of the antechamber is the burial chamber and two the left is a serdab.

Subteraean chambers of the Pyramid of Merenre I

In the burial chamber, there were polychrome reliefs on the walls and the ceiling was covered with stars. Besides the sarcophagus, there was a niche for the canopic chest that was sunk into the floor.

The burial chamber of Merenre I with the stats on the ceilings and the pyramid texts behind the sarcophagus

There was a decorated sarcophagus standing against the wall. This was in pretty good condition, although it had been plundered. The sarcophagus has a palace motif on the sides and the lid was found pushed back. The only burial equipment noted were two alabaster shells and a small wooden knob or handle for a chest.

The pyramid was first examined in the 1830s by John Perring. In the 1880s, the subterranean chambers were explored by Gaston Maspero (or Auguste Mariette, sources differ on who), who was in search of pyramid texts. He was the one to discover the mummy inside of the pyramid. Since the 20th century, a French team led by Jean Leclant has been researching the site.

Mummy

As stated above, the mummy in question was found in January of 1881. Apparently, Mariette was sick and dying in his tent, so the task of inspecting the contents of the pyramid and sarcophagus was left to his assistants, brothers Heinrich and Emile Brugsh. When they approached the basalt sarcophagus, they found the well-preserved mummy inside. Unfortunately, the brothers apparently took the mummy out and dragged it across the desert to show Mariette. This…may have broken the mummy in half along the way…*sigh*

You can check out this (strange) reproduction of the discovery of the mummy below!

It was not originally believed that this was the mummy of Merenre, which is entirely a possibility. But, if this is the mummy of Merenre, this would be the oldest complete royal mummy known to us today.

It was reasonably preserved when it was discovered. The lower mandible (jaw) was missing as were some of the upper teeth. The head was also torn loose from the body and the chest smashed, probably by looters looking for valuables. The arms of the mummy are stretched out along the body and both feet a spayed outwardly. It has not been determined whether this position was a deformity that the man suffered from or if this was arranged by the embalmers.

The mummy was also found with a side-lock, which is a hairstyle typical of young boys in ancient Egypt where their entire head is shaven except for one braided lock. This may be why Maspero thought this was a later mummy that was buried inside the pyramid during the 18th dynasty.

Mummy found in the pyramid of Merenre I

The mummy is currently located in the Imhotep Museum in Saqqara, where it is covered by a sheet leaving only his face and forehead exposed.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merenre_Nemtyemsaf_I

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyramid_of_Merenre

http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/merenrep.htm

http://www.ancient-egypt.org/history/old-kingdom/6th-dynasty/merenre/biography-of-merenre-i.html

http://www.ancient-egypt.org/history/old-kingdom/6th-dynasty/merenre/titulary-of-merenre-i.html

http://www.ancient-egypt.org/history/old-kingdom/6th-dynasty/merenre/pyramid-of-merenre-i.html

http://www.ancient-egypt.org/history/old-kingdom/6th-dynasty/merenre/mummy-found-in-merenre-is.html

http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/merenre.htm

https://tim-theegyptians.blogspot.com/2016/05/tuesdays-egyptian-mummy-of-king-merenre_31.html

https://www.nms.ac.uk/explore-our-collections/collection-search-results/sphinx/302994#

https://mummipedia.fandom.com/wiki/Merenre_Nemtyemsaf_I

Image Sources

Box with the name of Merenre Nemtyemsaf I, Musee du Louvre – Wikimedia Commons – Iry-Hor

Pyramid – Wikimedia Commons – Wannabe Egyptologist

Pyramid plan – Wikimedia Commons – franck monnier

Entrance to the pyramid, hieroglyphs of pyramid’s name – https://egyptphoto.ncf.ca/pyramid%20of%20merenre%20entrance.htm

Pyramid plan – http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/merenrep.htm

Picture of mummy in case – The Egyptians Blogspot

Mummy – Wikimedia Commons – Juan R. Lazaro (Flickr)

Sphinx and pyramid entrance – Ask Aladdin

Rock inscription in Aswan – Wikimedia Commons – Karl Richard Lepsius

Mummy – Ancient Egypt.org

Full statue – The Ancient Egypt Site

Head of Mummy – Wikimedia Commons – Gaston Maspero (1915)