915: Meresankh III
Ancient Egyptian Royal Woman
Lived: Fourth Dynasty Ancient Egypt (Old Kingdom)
Meresankh means “she loves life.”
Meresankh was the granddaughter of Pharaoh Khufu. She was the wife of Pharaoh Khafre*, whose brother was Meresankh’s father Kawab. This means Meresankh married one of her biological uncles; which was not uncommon for the royal family. She had at least five children: a daughter and four sons.
Meresankh’s mother was Hetepheres II; whose father was also Khufu (meaning Meresankh’s parents were also biological siblings). Meresankh’s mother was very important to her, and images and allusions to Hetepheres are located all throughout Meresankh’s tomb. Some have even speculated that Hetepheres donated her own tomb and sarcophagus to her daughter, seeing as Meresankh died before her mother; possibly from something quick and unexpected.
Meresankh has a famous mastaba tomb, as previously mentioned, which was opened to the public for the first time in 2012 (it was first found in 1927). The tomb is located in the Giza complex and showcases just how important women had become to the royal family by the fourth dynasty.
Her tomb alludes to her holding power in the transitional period between Pharaohs (meaning the time between her husband’s death and her stepson’s coronation) but what that power was exactly is unknown. Meresankh was not the mother of the next Pharaoh, which meant she should have been treated as a minor royal wife. Instead, she was awarded many privileges that are seen throughout the tomb, including being the only royal wife of her generation to be depicted on a throne that also features a lion. Both of these icons were important evocations of power in Ancient Egypt.
*I thought it important to mention that in all the sources I listed below, Meresankh’s husband was definitively named as the Pharaoh Khafre. However, one source stated it might have been Khafre, but it might also have been the Pharaoh Menkaure (the two were father and son). The majority consensus is that her husband was Khafre, but I wanted to mention this discrepancy for total clarity.
Find a Grave Marked
Located In My Personal Library:
Ancient Egypt: An Introduction by Salima Ikram