The mastaba tomb of Watetkhethor is part of the total Mereruka mastaba complex. It is situated in the north-east sector of the necropolis of Saqqara, not far from the edge of the plateau, just to the north of the pyramid of Teti, the first pharaoh/king of 6th Dynasty. During this period power of the pharaohs was declining as can be seen in the comparatively small size and poor construction of their pyramids. However, increasing power attained by the large aristocratic families became apparent in the size and quality of the decoration of their mastabas.
The Mereruka mastaba complex was discovered by Jacques de Morgan, the then director general of the Services of Antiquities, in July 1893. The Service built up its walls, roofed it, and opened it to the public. However, by 1912 it had once more to be freed from encroaching sand. The first serious publication of the mastaba, by Prentice Duell, did not appear until 1936. This publication was very limited in textual descriptions and the black and white photos only covered Mereruka's own portion of the mastaba. A rather brief summary had been produced some 40 years earlier by Georges Daressy.
In more recent times (2008), Watetkhethor's part of the complex has been publish in great detail, by Naguib Kanawati, Anne McFarlane and Mahmoud Abder-Raziq. The team have already published (2004) the part of the complex belonging to Meryteti, their son, and it is their intention to next publish the main part which belongs to Mereruka himself.
Prof. Kanawati has kindly given his permission for the line drawings and some of the plates from the publication to be used in the production of these pages.
The mastaba of Mereruka is the largest (by chamber count), and most complex, ever discovered. Originally it was constructed in two sections, the largest section of which was for himself, whilst the smaller section, in the south east corner, was for his wife Watetkhethor. Later, another section was added at the northern end, for their son Meryteti. It is Watetkhethor's part of the complex which will be dealt with in the following pages.
To differentiate between the three sections, all upper chambers (usually referred to as the chapel) belonging to are prefixed with "A", those of Watetkhethor are prefixed "B", whilst those of are prefixed "C".
A full general description of the triple complex, with particular reference to the part belong to Watetkhethor, is below.
Watet-khet-hor , her "beautiful" (or chosen) name Seshseshet , wife of Mereruka and mother of Meryteti and Ibnebu, is not portrayed in the chambers of her son Meryteti's chapel, but only in her own and those of her husband. She held no administrative offices, but did hold religious titles. She is identified as
"eldest daughter of the king, of his body", very likely of Teti and Queen Iput, thus being the sister of Pepy I.
Her religious titles were:
• Priestess of Neith, who is north of the wall, at Iret-Merut.
• Priestess of Hathor, lady of the sycamore.
• Priestess of… in all places.
Mereruka, his "beautiful" name Meri , husband of Watetkhethor and father of Meryteti and Ibnebu. It is interesting to note that although Mereruka is never represented in any of Watetkhethor's chambers, she appears many times in his own. It seems that Mereruka was very proud of his marriage and wanted to show this by the frequency of her image. For everything about Mereruka, and his part of the total mastaba, see the .
Meryteti, his "beautiful" name Meri, was the son of Watetkhethor and Mereruka. Although the full name, with the extension of "his beautiful name Meri", is not found in his own chambers, it is found in the chambers of his mother. There is no mention, of his royal descent in his mother's chambers, but can obviously be assumed by the fact that she is identified as
"eldest daughter of the king, of his body". He is, however, identified as
"her eldest son, of her body", which begs the question as to why there are no other sons shown on her walls, whilst several others are indicated on the walls of Mereruka's own section of the mastaba. With the exception of the south wall of B3 and the north wall of B5, he always appears naked, wearing the sidelock of youth hairstyle ending with a disc. For everything about Meryteti, and his part of the total mastaba, see the
Ibnebu , was the daughter of Mereruka and Watetkhethor and thus the sister of Meryteti. She is depicted only once in the total mastaba, in chamber B01 of Watetkhethor's section of the structure. She is named as
"Her daughter, her beloved, of her body". Although she is shown as a fully developed woman, she is obviously young because she has her hair in a plait adorned with a disc.
The total complex is described on of the mastaba of Mereruka, but the following describes it in relation to Watetkhethor's chambers.
Since its appearance at the very start of pharaonic civilisation, the funerary superstructure known by its Arab name of "mastaba" (English "bench") basically consists of a solid mound, usually made of stone rubble covered with a facing of limestone blocks, carefully levelled and smoothed. It generally adopts the form of a truncated pyramid, a symbolic evocation of the original mound, the first land to emerge from the primordial swamp (the Nun) at the dawn of creation. Dynasty VI marks the height of the sumptuous development of the family funerary chapel, the magic interface between the world of the living and that of the dead.
Even though the external form of the mastaba did not radically change during the Old Kingdom, this was not the case with the interior spaces. Despite individual necropolis variations, a common global process of increasing size and diversification became apparent, no doubt affected by the sociological and historical reasons given above.
After its restoration in the late 1800's and early 1900's, the overall external dimensions of the mastaba are : 23 metres east-west, 30 metres north-south extending to 41 metres when including Meryteti's addition and 4.5 metres high.
The entrance to the mastaba faces south, not east as was customary. This was probably due to an agreement between Kagemni and Mereruka. The reasons and effects of this change can be found in the pages covering the "Mastaba of Mereruka".
The total complex (), usually referred to just as "Mereruka's mastaba" (most visitors thinking that it belongs only to Mereruka), is the largest, by chamber count, in Egypt; containing no less than 31 upper chambers (which include both actual rooms and large passageways, but not the small interconnecting sections between chambers). From these, 21 are devoted to Mereruka himself (chambers prefixed A), 5 are designated to his wife Watetkhethor (chambers B) and 5 added for his son Meryteti (chambers C). In addition to these, there are 3 well shafts and their associated burial chambers. Mereruka's access shaft is located with chamber A11; those for both his wife and his son, are not accessed from within one of their chambers, but from the roof.
The combined mastaba is an amazingly complex spatial and iconographic structure and is of considerable interest. Certainly, the intricate layout of the internal chambers could be considered as a maze; on entering with only a small lamp and no map, it would be very easy to become lost, were it not for the occasional sky-light.
With this total mastaba, the concept of a solid mound with "excavated" chambers is forgotten. This complex, though maintaining the normal outward appearance, internally contains more space than solid material. The numerous chambers are separated by solid walls, though of variable thickness. Its internal design has moved to the far extreme from the original designs.
An examination of the plan also shows quite clearly that the main area (chambers A), belonging to Mereruka himself, forms a rotated L-shape enclosing the suite of chambers devoted to his wife Watetkhethor (area of chambers B). At a later date the mastaba was enlarged at the northern end to accommodate the chapel complex for his son Meryteti (area of chambers C). This was accomplished after the reliefs in the pillared hall (A13) had been completed, with the entrance to Meryteti's first chamber cutting through the established reliefs.
Thus the great Mereruka embraces his wife to the south west and is accompanied by his son to the north; a symbolic family group.
Although each of the three sections can only be reached from the entrance on the south facing wall of the complex, they are each designed as independent multi-chambered chapels.
The following pages will only cover that part of the mastaba belonging to Watetkhethor herself. From here on these chambers will always be referred to with their "B" prefix, so as to differentiate them from any possible reference to the other two areas.