Tomb of Meryra - Tomb Decorations

Tomb Decorations

The sculptured reliefs of Meryra’s tomb were done in a new artistic style instituted under Akhenaten. The technique of modeling in plaster which was used consisted of the images initially being cut directly into the stone, and then covered by a layer of plaster, which was finally painted over. Like the style, the subject of the scenes was also unique. Traditionally tombs in the New Kingdom contained decorations dedicated to the owner of the tomb, such as depictions of family members and ancestors, or scenes about the owner’s career, amusement or domestic life. This tradition was not carried out in the tomb of Meryra, or the other tombs of Amarna, which instead focused almost exclusively on Akhenaten and worship of the Aten. Davies acknowledges the tombs of Amarna were often difficult to identify as little emphasis was placed on the owner. This contrasts sharply with the dominant tradition of New Kingdom tombs in which cartouches and images of the ruling king were marginal aspects to the tomb, sometimes not even identified.

The reliefs in the Tomb of Meryra are decidedly centered upon praising Akhenaten, and Meryra himself only appears marginally, sometimes indistinguishable from other minor figures carved in the relief. Despite this, Meryra maintains a constant contextual presence in the scenes, even if not being explicitly portrayed. In the scene Davies titles, A Royal Visit to the Temple, Akhenaten and Nefertiti are depicted paying a visit to Meryra at the temple. It is uncertain if Meryra is included in this image and the description of the scene has been destroyed. Davies speculates that the scene either shows Akhenaten on his way to the temple to appoint Meryra as the High Pries of Aten, or it is simply as example of Merya honored with the presence of the King and Queen at the temple and exercising his office for them. Either situation serves to promote the role and importance of Merya, even though the scene seems to be immediately focused upon Akhenaten. As the art was not focused upon Meryra, maintaining a strong contextual importance allowed for Meryra to still be bestowed with honor and praise.

In the immediately preceding scene, Akhenaten officially declares Merya as the High Priest of Aten. Despite being the High Priest of Aten, Meryra was not recognized with the power to access the Aten, an exclusive ability of Akhenaten. In the text of this relief, Akhenaten addresses Meryra with the proclamation, “Behold, I am attaching you to myself, to be the Greatest of Seers of the Aten, in the House of Aten, in Ahket-aten.” In this statement, the reliance on Akhenaten in Atenism is referred to in a physical sense, as Akhenaten pledges to “attach” Meryra to him. This is similar to the contact the royal family has with the Aten, which is furnished with hands, or ankhs extending from its rays. One purpose of the ankhs is to literally fill the recipient through bodily orifices with the life and prosperity of the Aten.

A variety of texts were found in the tomb, including prayers to be said by visitors to the tomb, as well as religious texts, such as the Hymn to the Aten. The Hymn to Aten, traditionally ascribed to Akhenaten himself celebrates the Aten as the universal creator of all life. Although similar to hymns to Amun, the Hymn to Aten reflects the originality of Akhenaten’s simplistic perception of his solar religion.

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