Archaeology

3,500-Year-Old Keeper Of ‘Royal Secrets’ Tomb Discovered In Egypt

A magnificent tomb has been discovered in Egypt belonging to a ‘keeper of royal secrets.’ This highly-trusted man served two ancient pharaohs of the 6th Dynasty, and successfully navigated the political chaos surrounding a royal assassination.

Prof. Kamil O. Kuraszkiewicz from the Faculty of Oriental Studies at University of Warsaw recently announced the discovery of the tomb of ‘Mehczeczi’. Serving as a royal clerk for the 2nd Pharaoh of the 6th Dynasty , Userkare, who ruled between 2333-2331 BC, the university press release says Mehczeczi was laid to rest in a ‘lavish tomb.’ According to the researcher the ‘elaborately’ carved tomb is perfectly suited for a man who held a position of ‘great stature’ in the royal court of Userkare.

Pharaoh Userkare was the 35th entry on the Abydos King List which says he ruled before Pepi I and after his father Teti. Many historians refer to Userkare as an ‘ assassin’ and a report in Heritage Daily says he was involved in ‘a harem plot to assassinate his father and predecessor, Pharaoh Teti .’ Having been a keeper of secrets for both Teti and his son Userkare, Mehczeczi must have led a complex life during these chaotic times where deceit was a primary weapon in the fight for power over all of ancient Egypt.

Decoration of the newly found Mehczeczi tomb chapel. (©Jarosław Dąbrowski/PCMA)

Decoration of the newly found Mehczeczi tomb chapel. (©Jarosław Dąbrowski/PCMA)

Mehczeczi Set Boundaries Between Worlds

Egyptologists know that Mehczeczi’s superior in the royal court was Merefnebef, a respected vizier during the 6th Dynasty who served as the highest-ranked official under the pharaoh. Merefnebef’s tomb was discovered in 1997 in the Dry Moat surrounding the famous Step Pyramid of Djoser in the Saqqara necropolis , northwest of the ruins of Memphis in Egypt. Built over 4,700 years ago this structure is the oldest pyramid in Egypt representing the center of a vast mortuary complex in which both Mehczeczi’ and Merefnebef were entombed.

Prof. Kuraszkiewicz believes the Dry Moat around Mehczeczi’s tomb represents a sort of spiritual boundary separating his decaying remains from the world of the living. The archaeologists have so far only unveiled the facade of Mehczeczi’s chapel which is decorated with reliefs of ‘exceptional beauty’ according to the Professor. He said a relief on the wall reveals ‘an exceptionally skilled hand – elegant lines, subtle modelling – of an artist at least as good as the best of the authors of the reliefs in Merefnebef’s tomb’. However, the best is yet to come as the next phase of excavations will reveal the chapel’s interior which is expected to be even more spectacular.

Decoration of facade of Mehczeczi’s 6th Dynasty period chapel. (©Jarosław Dąbrowski/PCMA)

Decoration of facade of Mehczeczi’s 6th Dynasty period chapel . (©Jarosław Dąbrowski/PCMA)

Being Forewarned Is To Be Forearmed

The professor said the quality of craftsmanship discovered in Mehczeczi’s tomb suggests he hired the very best artisans. Funds wouldn’t have been a struggle for Mehczeczi for other reliefs show that he was keeper of ‘the secrets of the Pharaoh’s archive of documents.’ A Mysterious Universe article says it can be assumed that this title is not so much about the category of documents as about access to ‘the stage of their creation.’

This means Mehczeczi knew the secrets of making letters and words, which in an illiterate Egyptian society were associated with magic and cosmic knowledge. Furthermore, Mehczeczi knew which documents were to be produced at the royal chancellery long before they were published, and as we all know ‘to be forewarned is to be forearmed’ and ‘knowledge is power’.

Hunting The Secret Keepers Burial Shaft

So, Mehczeczi worked as the official ‘keeper of secrets’ for pharaohs Teti and his son Userkare. However, reliefs reveal that he was also titled ‘inspector of the royal estate’ and he later became the official priest and keeper of Teti’s tomb. Mehczeczi was present when the documents were made detailing the possible assignation of Teti, and as such he was one of Userkare’s most trusted members of staff, and this generally costs.

Suspecting he was an assassin, Pepi I, Userkare’s successor, deemed him illegitimate, and this is why no pyramid or royal tomb of Userkare has been found. Meanwhile, Mehczeczi was laid to rest in a magnificent tomb indicating how much he was respected as a keeper of the secrets of both Userkare and his father Teti. Now that his tomb has been identified and its exterior facade is excavated, the next step is to examine the interior, looking for Mehczeczi’s burial shaft which is certain to contain a host of treasures.

Top image: The 6th Dynasty clerk’s tomb was found near the dry moat of the Pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara, shown here.     Source: JUAN CARLOS MUNOZ / Adobe Stock

By Ashley Cowie


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