The north wall of the tomb is exceptional, both because of a representation of Meresankh on the two pillars and by the freshness of the colours of the hieroglyphs. The wall measures 3.35m in width, with a total height of 2.60m. It has three openings separated by two square-section pillars. The central opening is the widest. The openings to the right (east) and left (west) were originally walled up. The central opening was provided with a double door, indicated by grooves that are still to be seen on the floor, which also show that the doors opened outwards towards the main entrance (see ).
When the two outer openings were blocked up, the wall was akin to the pylon of a temple, with the entry leading to a chamber where the statues were immersed in semi darkness, just like the god in his shrine.
The decorated imagery area takes up about two-thirds of the total height of the wall.
The banner statement at the top, along with the other illustrated panels on this wall, is bordered with a white or light-blue strip regularly punctuated with narrow yellow bars. The very colourful, detailed and still mostly legible, text proclaims:
"An offering which Anubis gives, Lord of the sacred land, a beautiful funeral before the great god, that the funerary offerings go to her [of] bread, of beer, cakes, and livestock on every festival and every day as a blessing from the king. That there is dedicated to her a selection of offerings of birds and livestock, when she has grown gracefully old, as one who is noble in the sight of Anubis, who is foremost of the divine booth."
The central lintel includes an inscription on a blue-grey background. This states:
"The king's daughter, of his body, the king's wife, Meresankh". Here the white border can be seen to be edged in black, divided into white rectangles separated by narrow yellow rectangles or bars, also edged in black.
The two lintels over the side entries are set slightly back from the actual wall surface. The texts they contain, now on a yellow background, are surrounded by the same border as on the central lintel.
The inscription on the left (west) lintel reads:
"Companion of Horus, his beloved, Meresankh" (see ).
Inscription on the right (east) lintel:
"The beholder of Horus and Seth, Meresankh". Note in particular the long-eared crouching animal hieroglyph representing Seth (see ).
Dunham and Simpson make reference to a block that was once lying on the ground. This included a damaged but legible ink inscription stating:
"The great favourite, the follower of Horus, Meresankh". This piece had been put back in place, forming an "internal horizontal drum" to the top of the entrance. It has been impossible to locate or identify this item.
Only the outer (south) face of the two pillars had been decorated, the other three sides of each being simply coated with a pink mortar (see ). On each of the pillars Meresankh is depicted standing, and facing towards the central opening, in an almost symmetrical attitude although with some variations. The representations are sculpted in raised relief on the same blue-grey background as found on the central lintel, and are vertically edged on each side with the border of rectangles as described above. At the bottom of the pillars there is a black dado area separated from the display section by a broad red band.
Meresankh, of whom the preliminary red outline sketch can still be seen, is facing to the left. Her short wig (or perhaps natural hair) extends down to the back of her neck. She is wearing a broad necklace and choker (only just visible), as well as bracelets on both wrists, and anklets. She is clothed in long white dress with broad shoulder straps, her right breast being revealed (probably to portray her femininity). Her right hand is held over her left breast. Note should be made of her aquiline nose and slightly thickened chin.
Above her head is an inscription in four columns:
"The king's daughter of his body, the beholder of Horus and Seth, companion of Horus, Meresankh."
The very small image of a child, standing at her feet, also deserves attention. This small boy, with red skin, and naked except for a necklace and bracelets, stands on the far side of Meresankh’s feet. Associated with this small image are two columns of inscription (in red and yellow) identifying the figure as:
"The king's son of his body, Duwa-Re". Thus he is a son of Khephren (see ). The substantial difference in size between these figures of Meresankh and the boy shown on both pillars is not unusual, even though out of proportion, and is repeated on the adjoining west wall (see ). However, neither the representations, nor the inscriptions, are in relief, unlike those of other secondary figures in the chapel.
The queen is represented almost identical to the facing view, but this time facing right, with her left arm across her chest (see ) The inscription above her states:
"The king's daughter of his body, intimate with Horus, the follower of Horus, Meresankh."
Again there is a naked child at his mother's feet. This time he is shown walking, with his head turned back towards her, and a finger to his lips. He is identified as
"The king's son of his body, Nyuserreankh". This name is in the style of that of king Nyuserre, of the middle of the Vth Dynasty (c. 2445-2421), written in a cartouche.
The image superimposed on the feet typically dates to the IVth Dynasty. This shows that the representation and the inscription that accompanies it, just like those of the other pillar, are later additions and that the chapel was accessible long after the funeral of Meresankh.
The purpose is to show the dependence of the eldest son in relation to the figure holding inheritance and power, usually the father — but here it is the queen. The small figure walks in the steps of the one who passes legitimacy to him, he is her alter ego on earth.
The reasons behind the adding of these two small figures in the tomb of Meresankh remain unknown: perhaps there was some problem over the question of inheritance.
(See ) The west wall is 7.57m long, with a maximum height of 2.60m, again with the image area taking up roughly the upper two-thirds of this. There is a false door at the south end), with two openings separated by a pillar, giving access to the west chamber. Each opening could originally be closed off by double wooden doors that opened into the main chamber, as can again be determined by grooves still visible in the floor. Today access is only gained through the opening on the left, that on right being obstructed by a metal barrier to protect visitors from a drop into the funerary shaft in the western, or burial, chamber (see ).
The entire wall surface is decorated with reliefs and inscriptions, the original colours of some in the northern section still being retained. At the top there are traces of the frieze featuring trident-shaped flowers, as already discussed (see ). Beneath the architrave there is a long text in two lines (to be read from right to left):
"An offering which the king gives, and Anubis, foremost of the divine booth, lord of the funeral (that she may be buried) in the western necropolis. May she proceed in peace upon the paths on which an honoured one proceeds when she has become old, it having gone well with her in the sight of the great god. May offerings go forth to her, (namely) bread, beer and cakes, at the festival of the first day of the month, of the first day of the mid-month. That there be provided for her the offerings which are necessary for her, daily."
"Her mother, the king’s daughter, beholder of Horus and Seth, Hetepheres. Her daughter, the beholder of Horus and Seth, great favourite, follower of Horus, beloved companion of Horus, intimate with Horus, consort of he who is beloved of the Two Mistresses, the greatly praised, priestess of Thoth, the king’s daughter, the king’s wife, Meresankh."
Three figures, all facing to the left, are shown in decreasing height, to denote their importance and their age. From left to right: the queen mother, Hetepheres; her daughter Meresankh; and Nebemakhet, one of Meresankh’s sons.
Hetepheres, standing upright, has a neck choker, a large necklace of alternating blue and white rows, as well as anklets; there are, however, no bracelets. Her yellow wig is curiously marked with parallel cross-lines painted red. It is generally accepted now that the yellow wig does not imply that the queen actually blond hair, as Reisner had suggested in his hypothesis.
Another strange feature is that the long white dress Hetepheres is wearing has unusually pointed shoulders. From a distance one can imagine that the queen is holding two crossed nekhakha flails: but it is clear that she has nothing in her two hands held across her chest. This is in fact a subtlety intended to represent a specific coat placed over the dress of a royal wife, as seen, for example, on , in the Cairo museum. This is not a unique case: in the G7140 mastaba of Khafkhufu I, his mother is also shown with a pointed shoulder and again with nothing held in her hand (see )
At the back of the queen's legs a small girl is kneeling; she is waving a fan in her right hand, while her left she has placed on her right shoulder (see ).
In front of the queen there is a column of text which reads:
"Her mother, beholder of Horus and Seth, the great favourite, the controller of the butchers of the house of the acacia, the king’s wife, Hetepheres"
The House of the acacia tree is linked to the goddesses Saosis and Sekhmet. In the present instance it probably refers to a sanctuary of Sekhmet at Heliopolis. In Egyptian mythology, it was under an acacia tree that the original gods were born, and thus the tree was known as the tree of life.
In this depiction of Meresankh, the central major figure in the group of three in the northern section of the wall, she is shown wearing a short black wig, a neck choker, a necklace of alternating blue and white rows, and bracelets. Over her usual white dress she has a leopard skin (yellow, speckled with black spots) that passes over her right shoulder, a circumstance that is usually reserved for a sem-priest. The top of the white dress is shown over the leopard skin across her chest. In her right hand she is holding a red fly whisk, the ends of which pass over her right shoulder. Her left arm is hanging loosely at her side.
In front of and above the queen, is found the text:
"Her daughter of her body, the king’s daughter, beholder of Horus and Seth, Meresankh, the great favourite, greatly praised, priestess of Thoth, companion of Horus, consort of he who is beloved of the Two Mistresses, the king’s beloved wife, Meresankh"
Standing in front of Meresankh’s legs there is a small boy wearing the hair side-lock denoting childhood (see ). This boy is shown moving towards the left with his head turned back to the right. In his left hand and in the direction he is looking he is extending a lotus blossom towards the queen, while in his other hand he is grasping a hoopoe-bird by its wings. He is naked apart from the broad collar around his neck. His name, inscribed above him, is
"Khenterka". This is therefore one of the sons of Meresankh.
Standing behind Meresankh is another of her sons, shown smaller than she is, but certainly not so slim as her. He is walking to the left, his arms loosely by his sides, one hand clutching a folded piece of material. He has a long wig (white, because the colour has been lost), and a necklace as well as bracelets. His copious loincloth reaches down to his calves and extends up his back. Over his chest and over his right shoulder there is a broad white sash, to indicate his status as chief lector priest. He is identified by the accompanying inscription as:
"Her son, the king’s son of his body, chief lector priest, Nebemakhet".
Behind him are three registers one above the other, each featuring a small figure facing left. The top and bottom of these show two young naked boys each with a finger in his mouth. In the central register a young girl has a hoopoe-bird, which is held by its wings in her right hand. This way of showing children may be a subtle means of indicating their relationship in age, one that was perhaps better understood by contemporaries than in some later explanations.
Queen Meresankh is shown on the east wall in the chapel of the G8172 mastaba of Nebemakhet (see ) with a text which states:
"His mother, the beholder of Horus and Seth, the great ornament, the great favourite, the royal wife, Meresankh". She is also mentioned on the rear pillar of a fragmentary limestone statue that was in the front courtyard of the chapel (see ).
The central pillar shows a standing figure of Meresankh facing to the left (south), with one arm folded across her chest, the other loosely at her side. She has a large tripartite wig and a neck choker, together with a necklace of alternating blue and green rows, as well as bracelets and anklets. Although the colour of the image has all but disappeared, Dunham and Simpson state that Meresankh is wearing a long dress with ribbed shoulder straps, and that the dress shows traces of a net pattern from below the breasts downwards. Her face appears somewhat different from representations already seen, although her nose remains strong and was certainly a real physical feature of the queen's looks. These separate depictions were probably produced by the hands of two different artists.
The vertical column of text in front of Meresankh states:
"The beholder of Horus and Seth, great favourite of Nebty, priestess of Hathor, mistress of Denderah, the king’s wife, Meresankh". The vertical edges of the column feature the border of rectangles found elsewhere on the wall.
The southern section of the western wall of the main chamber, to the left of the entry to the western chamber, has lost all its colour below the architrave. This portion of the wall can be divided in three segments: the queen Meresankh facing north towards the entranceway; the false door with above it the scene of offerings; and finally the image of Khemetnu (see , left side).
Queen Meresankh is shown standing upright, facing to the right. She is virtually the mirror image of the representation just described. In front of her there is a column of text that reads:
"The beholder of Horus and Seth, the great favourite of the Nebty (= the king), the priestess of Ba-pef, the royal wife, Meresankh". Ba-pef, literally "that Ba" or "that soul", is an obscure god associated in some way with pain, or misfortune. It would seem that his real name is never written. In the Pyramid Texts there is mention of a residence of Ba-pef
"in which are the unfortunate"
Behind the queen can be seen three smaller female images, placed one above the other without identifying inscription, all walking to the right. The upper one of the three is wearing a long dress with only a single shoulder strap. Her left hand is holding up the end of a long object that is supported on her left shoulder. She has a small bag in her right hand. The woman in the middle, who is wearing a long dress without any shoulder straps, is carrying a chest on her head, which she is balancing using her left hand. In her right hand she is holding a long stick that passes over her right shoulder. Finally, the woman at the bottom is also in a long dress without a shoulder strap. In her left hand she is holding out what might be a fan, and she too may have a bag in her right hand.
The false door
According to Jan Assmann,
"The false door can be regarded, in a comparative perspective, as the symbol that typically distinguishes Egyptian culture from other sepulchral traditions. The meaning of this symbol is evidently to indicate an exit. It is the doorway by means of which the deceased, either the ka or the ba, leaves to partake of the offerings intended for this purpose. The symbol of the door thus complements and contrasts with that of the mound over a tomb (the mastaba of stone, the pyramid) or the gravestone in other cultures, that mark burial for the outside world. The contrasting aspect of the doorway is that it creates an opening, a passage, an interface between the underground world and this world".
The false door in this instance is very simple and is almost certainly unfinished. It features an inner upright recessed rectangular area capped with a plain drum. The sides of the false door, like the small drum, are not engraved.
Directly above it there is, inset, a broad pseudo lintel bearing this inscription:
"The beholder of Horus and Seth, the great favourite, the follower of Horus, the king's daughter, his beloved, the royal wife, Meresankh"
The queen in front of a table of offerings
When the mouse pointer has been passed over the above image, the text on the inset lintel just described can be readily seen. Above this lintel there is a larger rectangular panel, at each end of which is a narrow undecorated portion. The main inner area features a scene of Meresankh in front of a table of offerings. She is on the left, seated on a low-backed throne, which is decorated on the side with the image of a seated lion. Meresankh‘s royal privilege, and the importance of the likely political role she played, has already been mentioned. She is shown here with her left hand held to her shoulder, the other resting on her thigh. In front of her is the offering table, laden with upright loaves of bread. Beneath the table there is the usual listing:
"A thousand bread, beer, alabaster and clothing". An inscription occupies the area above and to the right of the table:
"The king's daughter, of his body, whom he loves, the royal wife, Meresankh. The companion of Horus, whom he loves, the intimate one of Horus, the great favourite, the follower of Horus, the priestess of Thoth, the royal wife, Meresankh"
The row of jars, bowls and invocatory offerings
At the top of the wall, there is a decorated area forming a kind of duplicate architrave. At far left of this stands an anonymous figure (in a severely deteriorated condition) presenting a variety of vessels, his left hand held out to indicate the offerings. Below the row of vessels there is an inset panel that contains two rows of text (also in a very damaged state). Reading from right to left, this comprises an extended offering formula: (top line)
"An offering given by the King and Anubis foremost of the divine booth, that she may be buried in the western necropolis having grown old very gracefully in the sight of the great god. Funerary offerings for her of bread and beer, Meresankh." ; (bottom line)
"At the opening of the year, the first of the year, the feast of Thoth, the Wag festival, at every festival, the first of the month, and the first of the half-month, and every day. Beholder of Horus and Seth, the king's wife, Meresankh"
At the far left-hand end of the wall, to the left of the false door, a man is standing, clothed in a long loincloth that extends outwards at the front. Again, this image is very damaged. The man is holding a papyrus scroll in his right hand. On the ground in front of him there is a bag that would almost certainly have held the equipment he would have needed as a scribe. This is confirmed by the accompanying inscription, which states:
"The king's acquaintance, overseer, scribe, overseer of funerary priests, the lord of reverence, Khemetnu"
(See and ). The south wall of the main chamber is 3.33m long. It had been extensively smeared with a pink mortar. The lower part of the wall features three niches of different sizes containing seated figures. The upper part, 1.33m high, is decorated with five registers.
The top three registers are dedicated to scenes of offerings made by men to the seated figure of Meresankh, whose image on the right-hand side takes up the height of three of the registers.
The lower two registers feature scenes of women carrying diverse objects, and working on pieces of furniture. At the far right in this instance, and taking up the height of the two registers, is a two-part scene: on the left, two women are making up a bed; on the right, a man is applying paint to a statue.
Today, these scenes have almost entirely lost their colours. They were difficult to examine, and even more so to photograph. The only identifying text in the whole wall are captions beside two of the figures in the second register, and a further inscription beside the artist touching up the statue at the very bottom, right.
To the right in the top three registers, and taking up the combined height of the three, is a seated female figure: without much doubt this is Meresankh. She is depicted in such a manner as to be seen receiving offerings being brought, and dedicated to her, by the men in the registers opposite. She is wearing a long dress and has a long wig. In her raised right hand she is holding the stem of lotus flower, the bloom of which, before the deterioration of the scene occurred, would have been seen as being held to her nose. Another lotus flower can be seen wrapped round her right hand, which is placed on her thigh. The queen is shown sitting on a cuboid chair the decoration of which includes pairs of opposed papyrus blossoms: this is a motif that varied over time but which recurred over many the centuries ( of this composition are: the chair of the mother of Kheops, Hetepheres I, of the IVth Dynasty, and the Theban tomb 34 of Montuemhat, of the XXVth Kushite Dynasty).
Squatting at the queen’s feet and facing towards her, is a small figure, the sex of whom it is not possible reliably to determine.
Piles of offerings are depicted directly in front of Meresankh. These are distributed over four sub-registers, the bottom one larger in height than the three above. These offerings are displayed on tables and stands. They include items of food and drink: dressed fowl, vegetables and cakes, bowls and jars, as well as a ewer and basin for washing before and after meals.
A dog (a Sloughi), stands in the lowest sub-register, next to the largest table, and facing to the left. It has upright ears and a tightly curled tail. Such dogs were sometimes named in tomb displays, but not on this occasion.
In the uppermost register there are eleven kneeling figures, all facing right and for the most part free from damage. Their arms are crossed in various ways, in attitudes of salutation or humility. Behind them stand three men, also with both arms crossed over their chests. In the absence of any textual description it is not possible to know what these figures represent.
In the second register a procession of ten porters bearing gifts advances to the right, towards the portion of the offerings piled up in the middle two of the four sub-registers described above.
The man on the far right leading this group is identified as:
"The director of the dining hall, the funerary priest, Rery". In his left hand he is holding a folded piece of material; at the same time he is using his right hand to assist the man following him to carry a low table laden with provisions. The third man might be holding a plucked fowl on a stick, as well as some unknown item in his other hand (now partially lost through damage). Whatever the fourth man carried is now lost too, but his name is preserved:
"The funeral priest, Katjesu" The fifth, sixth and seventh men are also mostly lost owing to damage, which is too severe to enable what they actually carried to be determined. The eighth man is holding a goose in his arms, while the ninth has two birds held by the neck, one in each hand. The tenth and final man is carrying a hyena in his arms.
In the third register twelve butchers can be seen at work. The first three from the right are carrying pieces of meat. Behind them, two slaughtered oxen are lying on their backs on the ground. In each case a butcher is preparing to cut off a foreleg, with the assistance of an aide. Completing each of these two butchering scenes is a third man on the left, in the process of sharpening his knife. The tenth man in this group of butchers is getting ready to slit the throat of an oryx, his aide firmly steadying the animal by its rear. The last man is holding a small gazelle in his arms.
Registers four and five occupy the left-hand side of this lower section, occupying about two-thirds of the wall width. On the right, the remaining third occupies the full height of the registers and contains scenes of a statue of the queen and her bed.
At the right, a woman, who holds either a fan or a brush, leans over an armchair with legs in the shape of paws of a lion. She appears to be cleaning or polishing it. Also worth noting is the presence of a decorative lion under the chair arm. Behind her, another woman seems to be checking the state of a chair which would be carried by porters, which has a large sunshade on a long pole leaning against its back. The third appears to be carrying a flap fan in one hand and a large bag in the other. A large oblong object is held by the third with both hands (see ). The two women who follow carry between them a chest with the aid of two bars, whilst the next two carry between them a chest also on their shoulders, supporting it with both hands; the first one has the leash of a monkey attached to her elbow. The next to last woman carries a stool, with bull's feet, on her head, steadying it with her left hand, whilst holding a small bag in the other. The final woman, at far left, supports a chest or a box on her head.
On the right, on a platform, are a chest with a rounded lid, and another with a flat lid, on which is placed a headrest. Next is a very large square chest, at the left-hand side of which is a tall bag of linen surmounted with a head of calf. Following this is a chest, on top of which is a low table and on top of that is a round object and a smaller square one; across these two items rests a fly-whisk. Two women walk towards the right carrying between them a small shrine. These are followed by two others who each carry a vase and a third who holds a chest on her head. Those who follow them are very damaged, but it appears that one of them is accompanied by a dwarf.
The left side is a continuation of the production of furniture. Situated on a low platform are two females who, under a wooden canopy supported by upright posts, are preparing a bed on which is a headrest (an idea of what this would look like can be seen in a reproduction of the furniture of the queen Hetepheres I: see ). A scene of the same type is found in other mastabas, for example, those of Merefnebef or Mereruka.
At the extreme right is the only scene of the two lower registers to involve a man. He stands in front of an upright statue of queen Meresankh. He, facing right, is painting the statue, with a brush in his right hand and a bowl in his left. Both the man and the statue are positioned on a platform. He is identified by the text above him as:
"the painter, Rahay"
This is located under the bed being prepared by two women. This is 50cm wide, 77cm tall and 34cm deep. It is reduced by a 5cm recess probably destined to conceal it using a panel covered with plaster. The figure inside it is of a man representing a scribe. Although the image is uninscribed, according to Reisner, it probably represents Khemetnu the Elder, who supervised the development of the chapel, and who concealed this representation of himself from his mistress (although this is it hardly convincing).
This measures 40 x 63.5 x 32cm and contains the figure of a seated scribe. Again uninscribed, this time Reisner suggests Khemetnu the Younger, who would have been added after the death of the queen mother, Hetepheres II.
This one measures 75 x 37.2 x 32cm and contains four representations of seated scribes, who, according to Reisner, would be the children of Khetemnu the Younger. But as no of names were inscribed, all this remains in the domain of speculation.