The mastaba of MERYRE-NEFER surnamed QAR

George Andrew Reisner, the director of the Harvard University - Museum of Fine Arts (Boston) mission to the Giza site, explored an area near the pyramid of Khufu (Kheops) when, on 10 January 1925, he discovered the funerary complexes of Qar (G 7101) and Idu (G 7102). They quickly became indivisible from one another, on the one hand because of their proximity and on the other hand because of the family ties that very probably united their owners.

We will therefore speak in this introduction of these two monuments before focusing more specifically on that of Qar. The following study is based primarily on William Kelly Simpson's book The Mastabas of Qar and Idu, published in 1976.

I- Location of the tombs of Qar and Idu

The two complexes are contiguous. Idu is to the east of Qar. They are located a hundred metres from the eastern face of the pyramid of Cheops in the great East cemetery attached to this pyramid. A few meters to the south is the great double mastaba of Prince Kauab, son of Kheops, of whom we have already spoken in the presentation of the tomb of his daughter, .

The superstructures of the two mastabas have almost completely disappeared and only traces of the lowest sections remain. The chapels are both below the level of the ground and their inmost parts are caverns, excavated directly into the rock, under the superstructures. They are reached down a staircase coming from an open-air courtyard. At Qar’s tomb, the reliefs bordering the upper staircase were above ground level (as for Idu’s, we do not know).
To consider the two tombs as mastabas is problematic - which Reisner recognized. In particular, it is difficult to imagine how open courts can fit into the plan of a mastaba which, in this case, would be atypical.  Numerous blocks and fragments of blocks were recorded during the Reisner excavations. They are housed in several museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston. We will come back to them.

II- Historical Context

The fourth dynasty, that of the builders of the pyramids on the plateau of Giza, dissapeared, but the memory of these prestigious sovereigns continued until the end of the Old Kingdom, as did their pyramid towns, vast economic complexes employing a numerous personell.
 The sovereigns of the fifth dynasty first left Giza for Abusir, then south Saqqara, where they still constructed pyramid complexes but of a more modest size. The emergence of a class of civil servants at this time is demonstrated by the development of the cemeteries surrounding these pyramids. For the first time, high-ranking persons use formulas that tout their own abilities and appear as individuals.

In the sixth dynasty (± 2345-2180 BC), after the glorious reign of Pepy I, the economic system which hitherto underpinned society economically, politically and culturally broke down and ran out of breath. At the same time, the king gradually lost control of making appointments to the high offices of the State, and was replaced by a hereditary system that benefited rich families; But of course, competence was not always met with this way and the sixth dynasty gradually disintegrated, putting an end to the Old Kingdom.

In the fifth and sixth dynasties, the necropolis of Giza is certainly no longer royal, but remains active, welcoming, on the one hand, the tombs of the descendants of the individuals already buried there and, on the other hand, those of the personnel in charge of the cults for the pyramids of Khufu (Khufu), Khefren (Khafre) and Menkaure (Mykerinos). The funerary culture remained dynamic in the sixth dynasty, as Y. Gourdon says: "Far from being an area definitely cut off from the world of the living, the tombs of individuals of the Sixth Dynasty are a veritable open bible on the funerary culture of this period. At the same time, they represent a place of passage, an area of ​​sociability closely linked to funerary worship, but also, and even more so than before, a place of confrontation where the dead and the living threaten and clash".

It was in the second third of the sixth dynasty that the high officials Qar and Idu served, probably at the end of the reign of Pepy I (± 2321-2287 BC) and during the reigns of his sons and successors, Merenre I (± 2287-2278 BC) and Pepy II (± 2278-2184 BC).
 It is generally accepted that Qar is the father of Idu, but each of the two persons has a son who bears the name of the other and Idu could just as well be the father of Qar.

III- Qar : The Person

His name

Qar is the "beautiful name" (we would call it the nickname) of a person whose birth name was Meryrenefer formed by the association of the name Meryre (name of King of Upper and Lower Egypt of Pepy I) in a cartouche, and the adjective nefer (beautiful, good, perfect ...) The inclusion of a royal cartouche in a person’s name is not unusual at this time. It indicates that the tomb cannot be prior to this sovereign, but not necessarily that it is later, for a funerary priest (as in the case of Qar) may act as a living image of the king whose worship he enshrines.

Main titles and offices

(Simpson, Piacentini)

- "Deputy of the king" (or privileged subaltern, someone to think when you want to entrust a mission)
- "Steward (of command) of men (or people)" * (title expressing the judicial authority)
- "True pillar of Kenemet" * (title expressing the judicial authority) see Wiki

- "Priest of Maat"* (title expressing the judicial authority)
- "Scribe of the royal documents"
- "(True) Scribe of the royal documents in the presence of the king": if one interprets his title literally, a secretary writing under the royal dictation (Baud 238)
 - "sab Counsellor" (a complex title, studied in depth by Étienne Van de Walle: Sab corpus)
- According to Kanawati (Artists, p.44), a fragment indicates that he is "True Director of the Six Great Courts", a title usually borne by the vizier, especially in the sixth dynasty.
- "Khenty-She of the pyramid Mennefer-Meryre" (name of the pyramid of Pepy I) *. Simpson proposes to translate Khenty-She by "Tenant farmer". In the papyri discovered in 2015 on the site of Wadi el-Jarf by Pierre Tallet, mention is made of "She-Khufu", translated by "the pool of Kheops", an abbreviation of "Ro-She Khufu", "the Gate of the Kheops pool", which is an administrative centre. It may therefore be that the Khenty-She title of Qar is linked to an administrative centre of the pyramid. We would therefore prefer to use the term "Agricultural Administrator"
- "Inspector of the wab priests of Ur-Khafre" (name of the pyramid of Khephren) *
- "Director of the town of Pyramid Netjery-Menkaure" (name of the Pyramid of Mykerinos)
- "Director of the Pyramid Town Akhet-Khufu" (name of the Pyramid of Kheops)
- "Chief of the Scribes"
- "Chief of the scribes of all works"
- "Chief of all works"
- "Private Counsellor"
- "Private Councellor upon all works"
- "Sole Friend"
- "Director of the Residence"
- "Counsellor for all orders"
- "Imakhu"*, is a term whose translation is debated over between blessed, well provided, fed, with annuity… It is a quality of the deceased that is imakhu "before" or "of" someone, usually in the Old Kingdom, the king or the Great God. The term expresses an association between the deceased and those with whom he is imakhu and possibly supposes the abundance within the funerary domain. The general meaning of imakhu seems to be that of an association of which the deceased is worthy.
Qar is imakhu before Anubis *, before Osiris *, before the Great God.
In the Old Kingdom, "Great God" does not refer to a specific god except towards the end of the Sixth Dynasty, where it designates either Osiris or the Sun; it may also in some cases make reference to a deceased king.
- "The one who has made offerings"
(* Titles and offices also held by Idu)

Qar seems to have had a career in two stages, the second, which was described in the upper part of the mastaba, is almost entirely lost.

His family

We know the name of his mother: Khenut . His wife, Gefi was a "prophetess of Hathor". One son is represented who bears the name of Idu . This is why it is generally accepted that Qar is the father of the Idu of the mastaba G 7I02, but the opposite where Idu would be the father of Qar cannot be excluded. It should be noted that in the chapel of Qar, the latter is represented with his sister Benjet. There is a Benjet in the chapel of Idu, where she is presented as his daughter. Another sister is called Tjetuet.

General appearance of the tomb of Qar

The superstructure, to the extent that it existed, has disappeared: the monument is nowadays surmounted and protected by a modern construction. We reach the chapel by a staircase in two parts: A (north-south) and B (west-east) separated by a landing, at the entrance level today. B is a corridor staircase which ends on another landing from which an opening on the south side gives access to the main hall. It is divided into two parts, one open (C), the other covered (D), separated by a free standing pillar and two engaged pillars. At the end of Room D there are six statues; Room D is flanked by two other rooms, one to the west (E) and the other to the east (F).

I- The staircase

A- The upper part A

The staircase had ten steps; It begins at the level of the plateau, to the north of the chapel and descends on the south side, to a landing. This first part was lined with walls built of decorated limestone blocks, of which nothing remains. The block mfa 27.130 (now in the Museum of Fine Arts) opposite probably belongs to this zone. One sees Qar in a traditional scene of hunting and fishing in the marshes, brandishing a throwing stick. He wears a short beard and a curly wig surrounded by a tied ribbon extended by two long rigid ribbons. Behind Qar Idu appears, who also holds a throwing stick in one hand and three birds in the other. His long wig clears his ear and he wears a large necklace and bracelets.
Text: "The Scribe of the royal documents in the presence, the sab Counsellor, the Chief of the scribes, the imakhu, Idu".

B- The first stage

This is where the entrance to the tomb is today. At this level, the axis of the staircase turns 90° and goes in the west-east direction. Simpson places a block at this level (). There is Qar sitting on a high chair, his left arm on the armrest, his right hand stretched towards a table full of food; He wears necklace and bracelets as well as a wig or a tight cap.
Text: "Administrator of the agricultural estate of the pyramid Mennefer-Meryre, Qar, the director of the Residence, the deputy of the king, Meryrenefer".

C- The lower part B

Therefore it is at the top of this second staircase that the modern visitor enters the monument (). It appears as a narrow corridor whose walls have lost their decoration (). Nine steps lower, one reaches a second landing ()

1)- Landing, north wall

On the north wall of the landing (on the left while descending) there remains the lower part of a representation of Qar. He is turned to the left, sitting on a chair with high back (). In front of him we find, on the level of his feet, a narrow band with fish and, a crocodile (, red arrow)... suggesting generally that there was an aquatic scene above and more precisely, a scene of harpooning. A block showing a man carrying a fish, referred to as "His brother (?) Nakhti" can be connected to this scene ().

2)- Landing, south wall

Opposite, on the south wall of the landing, there remains a decorated block above the round lintel which surmounts the entrance to the courtyard C. It carries the lower part of a representation of Qar turned to the right in front of a table of offerings. He sits on a cushion on a chair whose feet are in the shape of a lion's paw. Below the table of offerings there is on the right of a side table an ewer in a basin on a display and to the left, a jar on a small table (). Fragments of blocks indicate that there was a scene showing Qar who, leaning on a stick, inspected the products of his domains.

3)- Landing, east wall


On the narrow east face, facing the descending visitor, there remains a fragmentary block, on which the lower part shows 2/3 of a standing Qar turned towards the entrance to the courtyard. He wears sandals and holds two batons in his right hand. Before him are two vases on a side table; He touches the nearest to his left hand; The second vase has a handle with a curve on the side. Above the vases is inscribed "The Imakhu Qar".

4)- Entrance to the courtyard

It is surmounted by an uninscribed rolled lintel (), as are also the lateral walls of the recess ()