Queen Mereneith


Around the middle of the first dynasty, the king Den may have been preceeded by Queen Mereneith (or Merneith, "beloved of Neith"), possibly the first female ruler of Egypt and possibly the world. However, it is unclear whether she reigned alone for a period or simply reigned alongside her husband Djet (if he was her husband) and then acted as regent for her son Den. She is named as the King's Mother on a seal impression created during Den's reign, but was not recorded on any of the kings lists. Manetho does not refer to her by name, but he does state that there were eight pharaohs in the first dynasty which is "correct" if you include Mereneith as a pharaoh. However, it is also possible that he included Narmer in the first dynasty (and not dynasty 0), and so counted eight pharaohs.

stelae erected in front of the tomb of Queen Mereneith at Abydos copyright Juan R. Lázaro

Merenith had two burial sites. In her Saqqara tomb, archeologists found artifacts naming a high court official called Seshemka. Her second tomb was in the royal complex at Abydos, along with most of the Kings of her dynasty. In this tomb, the base of a stepped structure was concealed within the usual rectangular shape of the Mastaba (a low flat "bench" shaped tomb). This may have been an early fusion of Northern and Southern styles which led to the development of the stepped pyramid complex. Stone vessels and seal impressions bearing her name and confirming her status as ruler were found in the tomb, along with a stela on which her name was written in an archaic form. The stelea also bears the crossed arrows of the ancient godess Neith.

copyright J Hill 2016
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