Report on the Archaeological Fieldwork of the Australian-Egyptian Expedition in the Tomb of Mereruka in the Teti Cemetery at Saqqara


Season 2008


The expedition started its work on the 2nd of January 2008 and finished on the 14th February 2008. Work was concentrated in the chapel of Waatet-khethor, beautiful name Seshseshet, with the aim of completing the recording of certain details in the scenes and inscriptions and re-photographing some of the scenes which we realised needed clearer images. A complete study of the colour conventions was also undertaken. All of the photographs and drawings which were previously prepared had to be checked in preparation for the publication of the chapel within the year of 2008.


Our studies have demonstrated the special importance of this chapel and the distinguished position of its owner, who appears seated in a palanquin that is decorated with the figure of a recumbent lion. This motif is certainly a royal one and it does not appear in any other Old Kingdom tomb, except in that of Meresankh III of the Fourth Dynasty. It now appears that Teti did not have a male heir and accordingly the husband or son of his eldest daughter could become the heir apparent until Teti produced a male offspring by his official wife Iput. It is also noticed that the first male offspring of Mereruka and Waatet-khethor, whose name was Mery-Teti, was described in Mereruka’s chapel as “eldest son of the king of his body” and the “ritual priest of his father”. With these two titles it was clear that Mery-Teti was for a certain period considered as the legitimate successor to Teti, since as a ritual priest of his father he was supposed to perform the burial ceremony as Horus did for Osiris. Mery-Teti was therefore not described as Mereruka’s son in order to prevent any genealogical confusion for the future king.


On the other hand, in the chapel of his mother Waatet-khethor, Mery-Teti was described as her son, her beloved. Such a designation was unlikely to cause any confusion as she is represented in this context practically on a throne. Mery-Teti appears with his mother in every scene within her chapel except when she sits at the offering table on the north and south walls adjacent to her false door. The latter of which is decorated with a palace façade. Mery-Teti also appears with his mother in the above mentioned palanquin scene where she sits on the throne decorated with the figure of a lion.


We also noticed that at the end of Teti’s reign, the king produced a son named Pepi I. Accordingly Mery-Teti lost the privileges that he gained as the heir apparent and his parents also seem to have lost their special status. This is reflected in the poor quality of the scenes which appear in the rooms of their chapels that were presumably decorated after the birth of Pepi I. This coincides with the inscription in Room A10 where Mery-Teti is referred to as “his son”, that is Mereruka’s son, and not the eldest son of the king of his body.


In the chapel of Waatet-khethor, a daughter by the name of Nebu-ib is represented and described as “her daughter, her beloved”, although no daughters are depicted in the tomb of Mereruka. As Mereruka regularly depicted his wife in most of the scenes in his chapel and represented his mother a number of times it is rather unlikely that the absence of the daughter in his chapel was due to his desire not to commemorate his daughter because of her gender. Mereruka was obviously very proud of his marriage to princess Waatet-khethor and accordingly it would have been expected for him to record all offspring of this marriage. It seems more likely in this case that the daughter Nebu-ib was born after the completion of the decoration of Mereruka’s chapel or more likely after the death of Mereruka himself.


The skeletal remains of Waatet-khethor were found in the 1920’s and were sent to the Qusr Eleini Hospital of the University of Cairo to be examined by the then professor of anatomy, Dr. Derry. He concluded that the skeleton definitely belonged to a woman after the archaeologists initially thought that they belonged to a male of large stature.


The expedition contacted the Anatomy Department at Qusr Eleini Hospital and found that the human remains of both Waatet-khethor and Mereruka are available and in good condition. We hope that the professors of the Department of Anatomy will complete their study of the skeleton of Waatet-khethor and provide us with the necessary information to include in our scientific publication of her tomb, which we hope will appear in 2008.


I would like to take this opportunity to present my sincere thanks to the Supreme Council of Antiquities for permission to continue my work in this important tomb and I would like to present special thanks to Prof. Dr. Zahi Hawass, the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities; Mr. Sabri Abd-el-Aziz, the Head of the Egyptian Archaeology Sector; Mr. Madgy El-Ghandour, Director General of the Permanent Committee and Expedition Affairs; Mr. Osama El-Shimi, Director General of Archaeology at Saqqara; and Mr. Sabri Farag, Chief Inspector of Saqqara; for all the help they provided in facilitating our task. Special thanks are also due to our accompanying inspectors, Mr. Amir Nabil and Miss Miral Lashin, who spared no effort in assisting us in all aspects of our work.


This was a report of the Australian/Egyptian expedition on the tomb of Mereruka in the season of 2008.



Head of the Australian Expedition,                                   Head of the Egyptian Expedition,

Naguib Kanawati                                                            Mahmoud Abd El-Raziq









Fig. 1 Waatetkhethor on a throne like seat



Fig. 2 Waatetkhethor with her son Meryteti and daughter Ibnebou



Fig. 3 Waatetkhethor’s palace façade in the offering room