Category: Vessel

Dog Count: 4

Provenance: Egypt (otherwise unknown)

Museum: Pushkin Museum, Moscow, I.1.a 4777

Date: Predynastic Period, Naqada I

Iconography Category: Hunting scene

This is a painted bowl decorated with a unique hunting scene. There is a naked man, wearing a bird mask and a headdress of feathers and holding a bow and arrows. In his other hand, he is holding the leashes of four dogs.



Philippe Germond, and Livet, Jacques, An Egyptian Bestiary: Animals in Life and Religion in the Land of the Pharaohs, (London: Thames & Hudson, 2001), 72.

Dale J. Osborn, and Jana Osbornova, The Mammals of Ancient Egypt, (Warminster, England: Aris & Phillips Ltd, 1998), 58.

Women Crush Wednesday: Merneith

After taking about the first confirmed female pharaoh of Egypt, Sobekneferu, I also wanted to mention some earlier women who may have ruled Egypt. So let’s talk about Mereneith from the 1st Dynasty!


Merneith (also known as Meritneith or Meryt-Neith) was a consort or queen during the 1st Dynasty of Egypt. Her name means “Beloved of Neith.” She may have been the daughter of Pharaoh Djer, which would have made her the granddaughter of the first pharaoh of a unified Egypt, Narmer. She was probably married to Pharaoh Djet and mother of Pharaoh Den, as indicated by a clay seal found in the tomb of Den, labeled “King’s Mother, Mereneith.”

She is believed to have ruled after the death of Djet sometime around 2950 B.C.E., although her title is still debated. It is possible that her son Den was two young to rule, so she may have ruled as regent for her son until he was old enough. But is she ruled in her own right, then she may have actually been the first female pharaoh of Egypt, or the second, if an earlier queen Neithhotep ruled in her own right. Her name is not recorded in any ancient king lists.

Merneith’s name can be seen on the far right. The vulture and the plant with shoots is the world for mother, while the three signs below it, spell her name.

She is known from only a select number of artifacts, none of which contain any depictions of her. Her name was found on a cylinder seal from the tomb of her son Den. This seal contains all the Horus names of kings from the 1st dynasty. Mereneith is mentioned here with her title, King’s Mother. Some objects were found with her name in the tomb of King Djer in Umm el-Qa’ab.

Reconstruction of the tomb of Mereneith in Abydos

In an unpresecedneted move, Mereneith may have built two sperate tombs for herself. First we will talk about her confirmed tomb in Abydos and then I will talk about her possible tomb in Saqqara.

Tomb in Abydos

Mereneith’s tomb in Abydos is located in the Umm el-Qa’ab cemetery, particularly in the 1st Dynasty royal cemetery. Her tomb is the strongest evidence that she was a ruler of ancient Egypt, because it is in the middle of the other royal tombs. She is buried in Tomb Y, which is close to the tombs of Djet and Den. Flinders Petrie discovered the tomb in 1900, and he believed that it belonged to a previously unknown male pharaoh. Two stela with her names were found outside this tomb

The tomb is only slightly smaller in scale to the other tombs at 16.5 meters by 14 meters. It was shown to contain a large underground chamber, lined with mud bricks. The actual burial chamber was dug deeper than rooms surrounding it. There were 8 storage rooms that were filled with pottery. This neck of a Levantine jug (UC 17421) which was found is currently at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology. A schist bowl was also found labeled as “that which is from Mereneith’s treasury,” which confirms it was an offering from the royal treasury and not her personal property. A solar boat was found in or near her tomb, which would allow her to travel with the sun diety in the afterlife.

The tomb was surrounded by rows of small satellite burials, with at least 40 subsidiary graves for servants. During this period, servants were sacrificed to be buried with their king so that they could assist the ruler in the afterlife. This was significantly less than at her husband and her son’s tombs.

The Levantine jug handle found in the tomb of Merenneith in Abydos located in the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology (UC 17421)

Tomb in Saqqara

Reconstruction of the supposed tomb of Mereneith in Saqqara

Her name has also been found on inscribed stone vessels and seal impressions in a tomb in Saqqara, Mastaba S3503. This has lead some to believe that this is another tomb of Mereneith. It is 41 meters long and 16 meters wide. The exterior was decorated like a place façade, with nine niches on the long sides and three niches on the short sides. There were 23 chambers on the ground floor, with 20 subsidiary tombs arranged around the structure. Some have speculated that this tomb has features of some of the funerary structures of the 3rd dynasty. Behind the palace façade there is the base of a stepped structure.

Below the ground level there was a large burial chamber in the middle of the building with four side chambers. Although it was probably robbed in ancient times, multiple items were still found in their original locations. There was a large sarcophagus in the center, of which only a few wooden planks were found. They did contain the remains of a skeleton, but they could not be determined to be a man or a woman. Bowls and vessels were found in the remains of a chest, some of which were inscribed with the name of Mereneith. North of the sarcophagus, poles were found which were probably intended for a canopy or tent. There was also a cylinder seal found with her name inside a royal serekh. Interestingly, this serekh had an image of the goddess Neith rather than the typical Horus falcon on top of it.

The only evidence that this tomb does not belong to Mereneith is the tomb in Umm el-Qa’ab. While it is extremely unique that a pharaoh of the 1st dynasty would have two tombs, the presence of one tomb shouldn’t be the evidence against another tomb.

The only evidence that this tomb does not belong to Mereneith is the tomb in Umm el-Qa’ab. While it is extremely unique that a pharaoh of the 1st dynasty would have two tombs, the presence of one tomb shouldn’t be the evidence against another tomb.











Photo Sources

Detail of the tomb stela, Egyptian Museum Cairo (JE 34450) – Wikimedia Commons (Juan R. Lazaro)

Cemetery B, Umm el-Qa’ab – Wikimedia Commons (Jolle~commonswiki)

Plan of the main chamber of the tomb – Wikimedia Commons (Josiane d’Este-Curry)

Funerary enclosure – https://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums-static/digitalegypt/abydos/abydosforts2.html

Levantine jug – Petrie Museum (UC 17421)

Full stela – Ancient Egypt Fandom (Tomrowley)

Reconstruction of the tomb – http://www.ancient-egypt.org/who-is-who/m/merneith/tomb-y-at-umm-el-qaab.html

Reconstructions of Saqqara tombs – https://www.courses.psu.edu/art_h/art_h201_ejw3/egypt.html

Seal impression from the tomb of Den – http://xoomer.virgilio.it/francescoraf/hesyra/merneith.html

Royal Tombs of Abydos – Wikimedia Commons (PLstrom)

Mummy Monday: The Gebelein Mummies

Today I am going to tell you about the Predynastic Gebelein Mummies, especially the Gebelein Man.

Where and When They Lived

These mummies were found in the area of Gebelein, which is near modern-day Naga el-Gherira. Gebelein means “two rocky hills” in Arabic and derives from the local landscape. Its ancient name was Inerti, which had the same meaning. There are over a dozen archeological sites that date from the Paleolithic to the Middle Ages. During the Predynastic era, Gebelein may have been the capital of one of the local governmental states. This site is very important because it may have played a role during the origins of the Pharaonic state.

These mummies were found in the Predynastic cemetery. These burials dated to the Naqada II culture, approximately 3400 B.C.E. This period is the second of three phases of the Naqada culture. Some distinguishing features of this period are an advancement in pottery decoration, early development in hieroglyphics, and increased trade with Mesopotamia and Asia.

Point A indicates the location of the Predynastic settlement.

Their Burials

The keeper of Egyptology at the British Museum, Wallis Budge, excavated the burials in 1896. While in Gebelein, he was approached by some residents who found the burials. After confirming that they were ancient burials, Budge began excavating the site. They discovered six bodies in shallow graves: two males, two females, and two of undetermined gender, all in the fetal position on their left sides. These were the first complete Predynastic bodies discovered. Unfortunately, the exact grave goods were not recorded, but at least one pot was found with one of the female bodies and some flints may have been discovered. Three of the bodies were found with remnants of reed matting, palm fiber, and animal skin. These bodies were mostly naturally mummified.

Predynastic bodies were usually buried naked and sometimes loosely wrapped by matting or animal skins. Natural mummification was actually quite easy for the Predynastic people, and most likely happened on accident. When a body is covered in the warm sand, the environmental conditions help evaporate or drain the water away from the body. This natural mummification may have led to the original Egyptian belief in an afterlife.

All five of the mummies were transferred to the British Museum in 1901. The Gebelein Man has been on display since 1901, but only one of the other mummies has ever been put on display. So let’s cover these first.

The Other Gebelein Mummies

EA32752 was a female mummy that has been exhibited three times. She was 5 feet (1.51 meters) tall and had long brown hair on her scalp. She had fractures to the skull and many other bone fractures that occurred after her death. She has been exhibited in Rome, Birmingham, and Japan.

At one point, she was called “Gingerella,” in regards to the Gebelein Man’s nickname, “Ginger.” Both of these nicknames are now not used because of a British Act of Parliament called the Human Tissue Act of 2004. This act allows for anonymous organ donation and requires licenses for those intending to publicly display human remains. “The policy outlines the principles governing the respectful and lawful holding, display, study, and care of human remains in the British Museum’s Collection” (British Museum website).


EA32753 was an adolescent, though the gender is uncertain. They were 4.9 feet (1.49 meters) tall and had a detached skull when discovered. There is some speculation that the head may have not belonged to the body. Although the person was on the younger side, their teeth were very worn. There were fractures in all ribs, left tibia, and right thigh bone. Finally, linen was used to pack the thorax and abdomen.

EA32754 was a male adult who was approximately 5.2 feet (1.6 meters) tall. He had healthy teeth, fractures on the 9th rib, the right femur, and a crack fracture left of the sciatic notch of his pelvis. He also had tufts of brown hair on the remains of his scalp.


EA32755 was an elderly person with an undetermined gender. They were 5 feet (1.52 meters) tall and was probably placed in a wicker basket and covered with animal skin. The body has decalcified bones which is consistent with senile osteoporosis. Although all the teeth were present, the caps were worn. They had many fractured ribs and the legs had been detached because of fractures from the mid-shaft of both thigh bones.

Finally, EA32756 was an adult male who was 5 feet (1.51 meters) tall. There were remnants of bandages at the neck, pelvis, and right ankle. The skull was detached, the ribs and left femur were fractured. One arm had been dislocated at the elbow joint, the left hand and both feet are detached.

The Gebelein Man

The Gebelein Man (EA32751) (formerly called Ginger) is currently displayed in the British Museum Egyptian Gallery and has been since 1901. He was the earliest mummified body to be seen by the public at the British Museum.

He was 5.3 feet (1.63 meters) tall and was most likely somewhere from 18-21 years old. All of his teeth are present and he has ginger-colored hair on his scalp. He has fractures to his ribs, right pubic ring, both thigh bones, shin and calf bones. Three shells are also present on the soft tissue just behind his left knee. Due to the high humidity of London, the skin on the back of the skull had begun to peel. Curators and conservators have glued the skin back with mixed success.

He is displayed in a reconstructed sand grave in the gallery. Although his grave goods were not recorded, the grave is reconstructed with different grave goods from the same period. Black-topped pottery, buff-colored pots, White Cross line ware, and Decorated ware are all featured. There are also slate cosmetic palettes, hard stone vessels, and flint knives.

(To be honest, I am a little upset that this “reconstruction” is not a proper reconstruction, as it takes multiple different items from different contexts and places them together.)

Check out this article (page 185-189) on the concept of sacredness with the Gebelein Man!

His Tattoos

If you could believe it, the Gebelein Man and one of the female mummies (EA32752) may have been the some of the earliest humans to have tattoos! Dr. Renee Friedman used handheld infrared cameras to discover and examine tattoos on different Egyptian mummies. The tattoos have been mistaken for meaningless smudges. The female mummy had tattoos of a series of S shapes on her right arm. This design has known from contemporary pottery and likely depicts a set of ritual clappers.

Tattoos found on the Gebelein Woman (EA32752)

The Gebelein Man had one tattoo. Two animal forms were found on his right shoulder. It may be a Barbary sheep, which is an animal with down-curving horns, and some sort of cattle figure. The tattoos were mostly made of soot and were probably made for show, which may imply that the Gebelein Man’s tattoos were badges of bravery. Interestingly tattoos in ancient Egypt were more likely found on females, so the tattoos on the Gebelein Man are very unique.

Animal tattoo on the right shoulder of the Gebelein Man

Check out Renee Friedman’s full article on the tattoos she found!

His Mysterious Death?

In 2012, the Gebelein Man left the British Museum for the first time to get x-rays and a CT scan at the Cromwell Hospital in West London. After receiving the scans, it was hypothesized that he may have actually been murdered!

There was a puncture under his left shoulder blade which damaged both the shoulder blade, the rib, and punctured a lung. The weapon is believed to be a copper or flint knife that was at least 12 cm long and 2 cm wide. He may have been taken by surprise, but it unclear how his other injuries were caused.

Check out this video for a virtual autopsy on the Gebelein Man!













Photo Credits

British Museum – All photos of the mummies

Rémih (Wikimedia Commons) – Gebelein Hill

Renee Friedman – Infrared images of tattoos

https://www.brown.edu/Departments/Joukowsky_Institute/courses/templesandtombs/8029.html – Map of Predynastic Sites

Julia Marie Chyla – Image of the Gebelein site (A location of Palaeolithic site)

British Museum Blog – X-ray of Gebelein Man