Mummy found in Merenre I’s Pyramid


The mummy discovered by Gaston Maspero in 1881, while working at the pyramid of Merenre I at Saqqara South, presents us with somewhat of a problem with regard to its identification. 
Based on the place where it was discovered, in the black granite sarcophagus inside the pyramid, it has been identified as belonging to Merenre I. If this identification is correct, this mummy would be the oldest complete royal mummy known to us today.

An important part of the problem is the fact that the current whereabouts of the mummy are unknown, making it impossible to examine it with more modern tools and equipment than was available in the late 19th and the early 20th century.

It was reasonably well preserved when it was discovered. The lower mandible was found missing, as were some of the upper front teeth. The head was thorn loose from the body. The chest of the mummy was smashed in by tomb-robbers who were looking for some valuables. The arms of the mummy are stretched out along the body and, curiously, both feet are spayed outwardly. It has not been determined whether this position of the feet were a deformity that the subject suffered in life, or whether the feet were, for an unknown reason, arranged in this manner by the embalmers, or whether the mummy was just laid in such a manner by its discoverers prior to it being photographed.

Head and chest of the mummy found in the pyramid of Merenre I at Saqqara.

Head and chest of the mummy found in the pyramid of Merenre I at Saqqara.

Source: KMT 8/4 (1997), p. 85

The mummy was also found to have a so-called 'side-lock', normally a sign that the subject as in his early teens, or even younger, when he died. G. Elliot-Smith, the Australian anatomist who was in charge of examining the (royal) mummies, considered this mummy to be of a much later date, i.e. probably the 18th Dynasty. The preservation of the mummy and the way it was embalmed, does not seem to correspond with other human remains of the late Old Kingdom.

The identification of the mummy found in the pyramid of Merenre I, is therefore all but sure.

© Jacques Kinnaer 1997 - 2017