Meryra, right hand of the “Heretic King”
Although it was never finished and remains unoccupied, the tomb of Meryra located in Amarna is notable since it casts a light on an important time in Egyptian history; that of the “Heretic Pharaoh” Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti.
Meryre or Meryra was the only person to have without a doubt served as High Priest of Aten. He also held the title of Fan-bearer on the Right Side of the King. Being the king’s right-hand man ensured him a prime burial location in the king’s new city.
Amarna or as it was formerly known, Akhetaten, meaning ‘Horizon of Aten’, was the city built by Akhenaten. The king built the city to honour the sun, a god he called Aten. During his reign, Akhenaten declared that Aten was the only god in Egypt, and that the only intermediary between Aten and the people was Akhenaten himself.
Inside the tomb are multiple reliefs picturing the king and his family along with his dutiful servant Meryra. Due to the composition of the rock, the reliefs were crudely carved into the stone, after which it was plastered and the finishing touches applied. Decorating each doorpost at the south-east of the tomb is a hymn addressed to the Aten, Akhenaten, and Nefertiti, repeated in four columns. At the bottom of these columns, Meryra is represented kneeling, in prayer. The columns are approximately 3.8 metres tall and a metre in diameter, representing an assembly of eight stems of papyrus with closed heads, bound together by four horizontal bands just under the bulging heads.
After Akhenaten’s death, the people returned to their old gods. Many held a grudge against the renegade king, going so far as to desecrate monuments and shrines bearing his image or having any affiliation his reign. Damage also was done to the tomb years later by Copts and Muslims who settled there, carving out chunks and plastering over others.
Despite it all, a large portion of the tomb has survived for over 3 300 years. Even though no one was buried within it, the tomb has preserved something much more important; knowledge about this pivotal moment in Egyptian history.