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Friday, 15 July 2022

A Day in the Life of Meketre

This blog, which has been written by Marissa Lopez, is a look at a hypothetical typical day in the life of Meketre, as depicted by his funerary models. Marissa is a life-long student of ancient Egyptian culture and likes to imagine what life could’ve been like back then.

Meketre woke up as the light filtered through the slit window towards the roof of his heneket (bedroom). His mind groggy, he could still picture his dream from the night before and felt it would be a good day. He sat up and looked around the room for the inetesh, dangerous animals that sometimes creep in at night. He can’t see anything against the white plaster walls or crawling on the linen blanket covering his legs. His servants are already busy, he can hear them moving around his estate as they clean and prepare food for him and his family. Meketre checks his sandals, slips them on, and starts his morning routine. 

Grabbing a cup of thick beer, he steps outside and breathes in deeply. He can smell the many trees and plants surrounding the lake behind his home. He sees a family of ducks swimming in the distance while a cat is curled up under a tree, sleeping. It was areqy, the last day of the month and when he walked around his personal estate to review the figures (fig. 1).


Fig. 1: Garden and porch model (MMA 20.3.13)

He took a moment to reflect on his journey so far. His father was a local leader and this allowed Meketre an education so he could learn to read and write. He started as an apprentice and worked his way up to a sealer under Nebhepetre Montuhotep. His good work caught the eye of Khenty, the overseer of the treasury. Khenty took Meketre under his direct supervision and arranged for Meketre to get the position after Khenty joined the town elders.

Meketre finished his beer and handed the cup to a passing servant. Today he had to travel the estate and meet with the overseer of craftsmen in some shops. Normally, he would stay in his office as the local supervisors reported to him, but a good leader looks with his own eyes. He decided to stop at the granary first, the main form of wealth for his king. Silver was pretty, but it didn’t feed the people (fig. 2).

Fig. 2: Granary (MMA 20.3.13)


Meketre turned to the right and started to walk down the path towards the granary. As he approached the granary, he could see Antef standing outside talking to one of the scribes. He was pleased to see Antef stand up straighter as he noticed Meketre’s approach. The other scribe hurried inside. “I was expecting you, sir.” Antef said, bowing slightly. Meketre nodded and walked into the building.

The granary consisted of two areas, the first one a long hall in which all of the scribes sat against the wall and wrote down the information they were given. At the end of the hall on the left-hand side was a door that led into the large storage room. The room had six sections separated by half walls with walking planks across the tops. New bags of grain were dumped on the top of the pile in four sections and withdrawn from the bottom of one wall. This allowed the grain to be circulated, preventing rot and age from ruining the grain. The building corners themselves were taller than the walls to support the thatched roof. Reed mats were rolled up to allow sunlight in, but were closed at night to prevent animals from stealing the grain.

Meketre walked into a long hall and gestured to the first scribe sitting cross-legged against the wall. The scribe obediently handed Meketre the papyrus roll from his kilt. The papyrus had multiple columns and rows showing the weight of each bag of grain that had been added to the granary, the amount that had been removed and for what purpose. His eyes scanned the numbers and totals. Everything looked appropriate. He handed the papyrus back to the scribe and walked along the wall looking at the papyrus of each scribe and ensuring everything looked correct. Antef walked behind him, volunteering additional information and answering questions as they arose. During Meketre’s inspection, the normal hustle and bustle of people carrying bags of grain, weighing them, and moving them to the storeroom had stopped. They waited patiently for the inspection to be completed, standing off to the side drinking water and chatting about their lives and the news of the day. They were sure to speak in hushed tones so as not to disturb Meketre.

Fig. 3: Preparing and baking bread (MMA 20.3.13)


After the inspection of the granary, Meketre started towards the bakery and brewery (fig. 3). He needed to monitor the amount of grain that was being taken in and ensure it produced the exact number of bread loaves and jars of beer for its weight. Scribes sat outside, leaning against the wall while staying in the shade of the palm leaves overhanging the edge. Like he did at the granary, Meketre examined the papyrus of each scribe to ensure there were no mistakes and that all of the information was being calculated correctly. Inside he could hear the bakers and brewers working on grinding the grain, baking bread, and making beer (fig. 4). He could smell the yeast that both groups used from outside. It was strong and the reason scribes sat outside in the shade of the building. Once again, everything looked in order and Meketre began his walk to the cattle viewing stand.

Fig. 4: Bakery and brewery (MMA 20.3.12)

Meketre walked past the mekher (barn) as the sun reached its highest point in the sky (fig. 5). He could hear the young renen (bulls), eating inside to protect them from the heat of the day.

Fig. 5: Bulls in barn (MMA 20.3.9)


Meketre arrived at the cattle fields. A raised and covered platform stood by the administration building and a group of men were herding the cattle from the field towards the platform (fig. 6). Others were standing on the platform while scribes were off to the side until they were needed. Meketre climbed onto the platform and was greeted by the men already there. They discussed the cattle, grain usage, fencing upkeep, butchery schedule, diseases, injuries, deaths, and birth rates since his last review. While they spoke, cups of beer and plates of dried meat and fish was served as a midday meal.

Fig. 6: Cattle viewing stand. Global Egyptian Museum (Cairo JE 46724)


After the meal and conversation with the men at the cattle stand, Meketre made his way to the slaughterhouse (fig. 7). It was not a long walk. The sharp smell of blood and feces was strong. This informed him that they must be in the process of butchering an animal at this moment. He stepped inside and he could see blood being drained from a cow that was hanging upside down. A pot was underneath the cow, collecting the blood. Birds were hanging from lines strung across the room. He spoke to the supervisor and pointed out which bird he wanted sent to his residence for the evening meal. The king allowed him such luxuries because Meketre did good work for the king.

Fig. 7: Slaughterhouse (MMA 20.3.10)


Meketre left the slaughterhouse and walked to the river. This was his favorite time of day, watching the ships come in to dock (figs. 8–9). He loved the idea of being on a boat but the reality was less kind. He always got sick when he traveled by boat. Working on a boat was difficult and being an overseer was better, to be sure. He still liked to look at them though and imagine that when he travels by boat to the place in the West, he will no longer succumb to that sickness.

Fig. 8: Boat (MMA 20.3.1)

Fig. 9: Boat (MMA 20.3.6)


Thinking about his trip through the Netherworld, he decided to stop at one more place before going back to his home. The carpenter shop was a little farther than he planned to walk, but he had something on his mind that could not wait (fig. 10).

Fig. 10: Carpenter's shop (Cairo JE 46722)


Meketre arrived at the carpenter’s shop as the sun started to dip in the sky. The head carpenter, Kyky, greeted him at the doorway a little concerned. Meketre smiled at him and the carpenter relaxed. “I’ve come to see how my statues are coming along”, Meketre said. “I had a dream last night and it showed to me images I cannot erase. It was of my wife, Nefert, and she was carrying my offerings into my tomb. I also saw my children carrying offerings into my tomb. I want you to carve and paint two women to look like Nefert. She is my beloved, my Ist, and she will make sure my tomb is properly cared for. Then I want you to make a set of four, my two sons and two daughters, also providing for my resting place.”

Fig. 11: Funerary procession (MMA 20.3.8)

Kyky smiled confidently. “I can do that. She will be so beautiful, you will cry from the beauty (figs. 11–13). Your children will give you the best beer, bread, and meats to sustain you for eternity.” Meketre smiled. He knew that he would be well cared for when he became a Westerner. He walked back to his home, satisfied with a productive day and he wondered briefly, how long would his legacy last.

For all eternity, he decided. And it was a good day.

Fig. 12: Woman holding offerings (Cairo JE 46725)  

Fig. 13: Woman holding offerings (MMA 20.3.7)


Grajetzki, Wolfram 2009. Court officials of the Egyptian Middle Kingdom. Duckworth Egyptology. London: Duckworth.

Grajetzki, Wolfram 2006. The Middle Kingdom of ancient Egypt: history, archaeology and society. Duckworth Egyptology. London: Duckworth.

Rice, Michael 1999. Who’s who in ancient Egypt. Who’s Who series. London; New York: Routledge.

Roehrig, Catharine H. 2002. Life along the Nile: three Egyptians of ancient Thebes. Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 60 (1), 1–56.

Winlock, H. E. 1955. Models of daily life in ancient Egypt, from the tomb of Meket-Rē' at Thebes. Publications of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Egyptian Expedition 18. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed reading your article -felt transported to that day in history, thank you