Who was Queen Meresankh III?
Learn about the life and burial of one of Egypts most important Queens and the wife of the Pharaoh Khafre
Meresankh III (= Mersyankh), chapel, room a (= main room), W wall, N end, relief (figures of Hetepheres II, Meresankh, and Nebemakhet), looking W. View at the Giza Project website.
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Meresankh III was one of the most famous Queens in the Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt.
She lived approximately 2600 BC. Her grandfather was Pharaoh Khufu, an important ruler in the Fourth Dynasty, who is well known as the builder of the largest pyramid on the Giza plateau.
Meresankh’s father was Prince Kawab, who was the oldest son of Khufu, and her mother was Hetepheres II.
Meresankh was married to Khafre, another son of Khufu and half-brother of Kawab. He built the pyramid next to the first pyramid built by Khufu. Together it is thought that Khafre and Meresankh had four sons and a daughter. The oldest son, Nebemakhet, grew up to become a visier or important political advisor and prime minister.
Meresankh’s Tomb at Giza in the Shadow of the Great Pyramid
Meresankh was buried in a mastaba in the eastern cemetery at the base of King Khufu’s pyramid. A mastaba is an Ancient Egyptian tomb, which consists of a rectangular, flat roofed structure above ground and a burial chamber below ground.
The burial chamber below ground holds a stone sarcophagus, or burial box. A wooden coffin containing the mummified body of the deceased was placed into the stone sarcophagus which was in the underground burial chamber inside the mastaba.
Offerings were made to the gods in the offering chamber portion of the mastaba above ground. In the wall of the mastaba above ground there was also a particular structure known as a false door. It was thought that the soul of the deceased would return through this door to view the offerings there.
What’s inside Queen Meresankh’s Tomb?
The Giza plateau was used as a burial place for members of the royal family and important dignitaries. Meresankh’s tomb is of special interest because it is well preserved and brightly painted.
The tomb was re-discovered by George Reisner in April 1927. He was a professor of Egyptology at Harvard University and curator of the Egyptian collection at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
Inside the tomb of Meresankh we see a large painting of Meresankh’s father, Prince Kawab. He was an important person in Egypt and was carved in a large size to reflect his importance.
Beside him we see Meresankh and her mother together in a boat on the Nile River picking papyrus to be offered to the gods. On the opposite wall is a depiction of Meresankh’s son, Nebemakhet. There is another depiction of Meresankh and of her mother, Hetepheres II.
Alongside them are depictions of Meresankh’s children. Along the walls are pictures of all of the things that Meresankh would need in the afterlife, including pictures of food and meat as well as drink offerings. There is a picture of a palanquin, which is a platform which was carried by servants to transport a royal person from place to place.
In one side chamber the figures of ten women are carved into the stone as they stand side by side. It is quite unusual to see these women because the society at this time was male dominated.
The black stone sarcophagus in the burial chamber in the lower level of the mastaba provides further information about Meresankh. It appears that the sarcophagus where her mummified body was placed was originally prepared for Meresankh’s mother, Hetepheres. It was carved with her name.
It is believed that Meresankh died before her mother, because Meresankh’s name has been added to the sarcophagus along with the words that Hetepheres has given this to her daughter. In the offering chamber there are stone carvings of Meresankh and Hetepheres together, symbolizing the love between the mother and the daughter. Hetepheres created a burial chamber for herself in another part of the eastern cemetery.
Continue Exploring the Giza Plateau
Keep learning more about Giza by reading about what Daily Life was like for the Ancient Egyptians at Giza and who built the Pyramids?