Merneith (also written Meritneith and Meryt-Neith) was a consort and a
Ancient Egypt during the first dynasty. She may have been a
ruler of Egypt in her own right, based on several official records –
if this was the case, she may have been the first female pharaoh and
the earliest queen regnant in recorded history. Her rule occurred
around 2950 BC for an undetermined period. Merneith’s name means
"Beloved by Neith" and her stela contains symbols of that deity. She
may have been Djer's daughter, and was probably Djet's senior royal
wife. The former meant that she would have been the
great-granddaughter of unified Egypt's first Pharaoh, Narmer. She was
also the mother of Den, her successor.
5 External links
Merneith is linked in a variety of seal impressions and inscribed
bowls with the kings Djer,
Djet and Den.
Merneith may have been the
daughter of Djer, but there is no conclusive evidence. As the mother
of Den, it is likely that
Merneith was the wife of Djet. No
information about the identity of her mother has been found.
A clay seal found in the tomb of her son, Den, was engraved with
"King's Mother, Merneith". It also is known that Den’s father was
Djet, making it thus likely, that
Merneith was Djet’s royal wife.
Segment of King list from tomb of Den at Saqqara,
mentioned twice as King's Mother
Merneith (mwt-nsw mr nt)
Merneith is believed to have become ruler upon the death of Djet. The
title she held, however, is debated. It is possible that her son Den
was too young to rule when
Djet died, so she may have ruled as regent
until Den was old enough to be the king in his own right. Before her,
Neithhotep is believed to have ruled in the same way after her husband
Narmer died, but whose son was too young to rule. Her name was
written on a Naqada seal inside a serekh, which was the way the kings'
names were written. This would mean
Merneith may have actually been
the second female in Egypt's first dynasty to have ruled as pharaoh.
The strongest evidence that
Merneith was a ruler of Egypt is her tomb.
This tomb in Abydos (Tomb Y) is unique among the otherwise exclusively
Merneith was buried close to
Djet and Den. Her tomb is of
the same scale as the tombs of the kings of that period. Two grave
stelae bearing her name were discovered near her tomb. Merneith's name
is not included in the king lists from the New Kingdom. A seal
containing a list of pharaohs of the first dynasty was found in the
tomb of Qa'a, the third known pharaoh after Den, her son. However,
this list does not mention the reign of Merneith.
A few other pieces of evidence exist elsewhere about Merneith:
Merneith’s name appears on a seal found in the tomb of her son, Den.
The seal includes
Merneith on a list of the first dynasty kings.
Merneith's name was the only name of a woman included on the list. All
of the names on the list are the Horus names of the kings. However,
Merneith's name is accompanied by the title "King's Mother".
Merneith’s name may have been included on the Palermo Stone.
Items from the great mastaba (Nr 3503, 16 x 42 m) in Saqqara, where
her name has been found in inscriptions on stone vessels, jars, as
well as seal impressions. In particular, there is one seal from
Saqqara, which shows Merneith's name in a serekh.
Merneith Enclosure is a group of tombs from the cemetery
at Shunet el-Zebib. These tombs are dated to the time of Merneith.
Merneith's name was found on objects in king Djer's tomb in Umm
Cemetery B, Umm el-Qa'ab. Tombs of the pharaohs of the first and
second dynasty of Egypt.
Plan of the main chamber of Merneith's tomb.
At Abydos, the tomb belonging to
Merneith was found in an area
associated with other pharaohs of the first dynasty, Umm el-Qa'ab. Two
stelae made of stone, identifying the tomb as hers, were found at the
Flinders Petrie discovered Merneith’s tomb and, because of
its nature, believed it belonged to a previously unknown pharaoh. The
tomb was excavated and was shown to contain a large underground
chamber, lined with mud bricks, which was surrounded by rows of small
satellite burials, with at least 40 subsidiary graves for
The servants were thought to assist the ruler in the afterlife. The
burial of servants with a ruler was a consistent practice in the tombs
of the early first dynasty pharaohs. Large numbers of sacrificial
assets were buried in her tomb complex as well, which is another honor
afforded to pharaohs that provided the ruler with powerful animals for
eternal life. This first dynasty burial complex was very important in
the Egyptian religious tradition and its importance grew as the
Inside her tomb archaeologists discovered a solar boat that would
allow her to travel with the sun deity in the afterlife.
Abydos was the site of many ancient temples, including Umm el-Qa'ab,
the royal necropolis, where early pharaohs were entombed. These
tombs began to be seen as extremely significant burials and in later
times it became desirable to be buried in the area, leading to the
growth of the town's importance as a cult site.
^ a b Teeter, Emily (ed.). Before the Pyramids, The Origins of
Egyptian Civilization. The Oriental Institute of the University of
Chicago, 2011, p. 207
^ vergl. Günter Dreyer, in: Mitteilungen des Deutschen
Archäologischen Instituts, Abteilung Kairo. (MDIAK) Bd. 43, von
Zabern, Mainz 1986, S. 115-119.
^ a b Wilkinson, Toby A.H. Early dynastic Egypt Routledge; 1 edition
(14 Jun 2001) ISBN 978-0-415-26011-4 p.74 
^ Aidan Dodson & Dyan Hilton: The Complete Royal Families of
Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson, 2004, ISBN 0-500-05128-3,
^ a b c d e J. Tyldesley, Chronicle of the Queens of Egypt, 2006,
Thames & Hudson
^ Porter and Moss Topographical Bibliography; Volume V Upper Egypt
Griffith Institute. p.55
^  Tomb of
Merneith at Abydos
^ Egypt solar boats
^ "Tombs of kings of the First and Second Dynasty". Digital Egypt.
UCL. Retrieved 2008-01-15.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Merneith.
Protodynastic to First Intermediate Period (<3150–2040 BC)
Narmer / Menes
Narmer / Menes
Merenre Nemtyemsaf I
Merenre Nemtyemsaf II
Neferkare III Neby
Neferkare IV Khendu
Neferkare V Tereru
Neferkare VI Pepiseneb
Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Period (2040–1550 BC)
Sekhemkare Amenemhat V
Ameny Antef Amenemhet VI
Mershepsesre Ini II
New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period (1550–664 BC)
Osorkon the Elder
Late Period and Hellenistic Period (664–30 BC)
Alexander the Great
Philip III Arrhidaeus
Ptolemy I Soter
Ptolemy II Philadelphus
Ptolemy III Euergetes
Ptolemy IV Philopator
Ptolemy V Epiphanes
Ptolemy VI Philometor
Ptolemy VII Neos Philopator
Ptolemy VIII Euergetes
Ptolemy IX Soter
Ptolemy X Alexander I
Ptolemy XI Alexander II
Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos
Ptolemy XV Caesarion
21st to 23rd
List of pharaohs
First Dynasty of Ancient Egypt
Tomb of Anedjib
Den seal impressions
Mastabas S3503 and S3504