MERENRE, 3RD RULER OF EGYPT'S 6TH DYNASTY
BY JIMMY DUNN.
Merenre, sometimes referred to as Merenre I as there was a much later king by the same name, was the third ruler of Egypt's 6th
Dynasty. As the oldest living son of Pepi I, he succeeded his father, we believe, at a fairly young age, and probably died
unexpectedly young, perhaps between his fifth and ninth year of rule. He was succeeded by his younger half brother, Pepi II. The
Oxford History of Ancient Egypt places the years he ruled as 2287-2278 BC while Chronicle of the Pharaohs gives him from 2283 until
Merenre was this king's throne name, which means "Beloved of Re". He is sometimes also referred to as Merenra. His birth name was
Nemty-em-sa-f, which means, "Nemty is his Protection". His Horus name was Ankh-khau.
His mother was Ankhnesmerire I (Ankhesenpepi I), who, along with her younger sister by the same name, married Pepi I in the later
part of his rule. Labrousse, who's team is excavating in South Saqqara where Merenre's pyramid is located, now believes that
Ankhnesmerire II (Ankhesenpepi II), married Merenre. She was a late wife of Pepi I, Merenre's father, and by him, the mother of
Pepi II, Merenre's half brother. She may have not been as old, or much older then Merenre, but sometimes working out relationships
is interesting. Not only would she be Merenre's queen, but also his stepmother and aunt. Pepi II would not only be his half
brother and his cousin, but also his stepson. In addition, the Labrousse team excavating at Saqqaranow believes that a Queen
Ankhnesmerire III (Ankhesenpepi III) who's pyramid is located very near Pepi I's was a daughter of Merenre, and became the wife of
Pepi II. Lets see. That would make her Pepi II's wife, niece and if Ankhnesmerire II was her mother, also his half sister. He had
another daughter named Ipwet (Iput II) who's pyramid is also in the South Saqqqara pyramid field.
Right: The copper statue found with a much larger copper statue of Pepi I has long been assumed to be of Merenre and a boy or young
man. However, it has been questioned lately whether it is instead a statue of Pepi II.
Merenre may have served as his father's coregent for a few years prior to Pepi I's death. Uni (Weni?), who had worked under Pepi
I, continued to make expeditions, and the governor of Aswan, Harkhuf, also led expeditions into Africa. Around, his ninth regnal
year, Merenre himself visited Aswan to receive a group of southern chieftains. It is interesting to note that this was a time when
new people, who archaeologists refer to as the Nubian C Group, were migrating from the south into northern Nubia. Because of the
growing relationship with Nubia during this period, merenre also attempted to improve travel in the first cataract region which was
navigated by way of the Dunqul Oasis and canals. We are told that:
His majesty sent (me) in order to dig 5 canals in Upper Egypt and in order to build 3 barges and 4 tow-boats of acacia wood of
Wawat, the rulers of the Medja hills Irtjet, Wawat, Yam, Medja were cutting the wood for them. (I) did it entirely in one year,
floated and loaded with very large granite (blocks) for the pyramid 'Merenre -appears-in-splendor' . Indeed, I made a saving for
the Palace with all these 5 canals.
Autobiography of Weni the Elder
The Nubian rulers are said to have helped by supplying the wood needed to construct the barges. (Since there was no wood in Lower
Nubia, they would have had to procure it from sources much farther south). At the same time the Lower Nubian rulers seem also to
have profited greatly by sending their fighting men to Egypt for hire. By the end of the Old Kingdom (ca. 2150 BC), the Egyptian
armies were mainly composed of Nubian mercenaries, many of whom would ultimately settle in Egypt, marry Egyptian women, and become
assimilated into the Egyptian population. During the Old Kingdom, Egyptian texts speak of a land in Upper Nubia called "Yam."
Besides troops from "Wawat, Irtjet, and Setju" (Lower Nubia), troops from Yam, too, were hired for service in the Egyptian army. The
only source that provides any real information about Yam is a biography of the Aswan governor, Harkhuf, preserved in his tomb at
Aswan. Harkhuf tells us that, on behalf of the pharaohs Merenre and Pepi II, he led four expeditions to Yam, each of which tookeight
It is believed that during his reign, Merenre not only continued his his fathers policies in northern (lower) Nubia, but actually
sent officials to maintain Egyptian rule as far south as the third cataract. We are told that the conquest of Nubia resulted from
the control of the caravan routes and the Western Oasis that relied on trade. Three were successive expeditions to Tomas in Nubia,
which connected the Nile to the caravan routs.
Merenre, like his predecessors, maintained diplomatic and commercial relations with Byblos, and we know from inscriptions and tomb
biographies that he had alabaster quarried from Hatnub and greywacke and siltstone from Wadi Hammamat.
A copper statue of Merenre as a young boy was found with a much larger copper statue of his father, Pepi I. These are believed to be
theoldest, large copper statues ever found, but some are now questioning whether the statue of the boy is actually that of Merenre,
or rather a young Pepi II. There is also a very small sphinx of Merenre in the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.
Merenre is further attested to by a Box (Hippopotamus ivory) in Paris, Louvre Museum, a rock inscriptions near Aswan, the
inscriptions on an ivory mother monkey that was probably a gift to an official, decrees of the king found at the pyramid temple of
Menkawre and in biographies of Uni (Weni) in his tomb at Abydos, Djaw from his tomb also at Abydos, The tomb of Harkhuf at
Elephantine, The tomb of Ibi at Deir el-Gabrawi, the Tomb of Qar at Edfu, and an unknown persons tomb at Saqqara.. He is also
mentioned in an inscription in the tomb of Maru at Giza (though this inscription is now in Brussels). Recently another inscription
has also been found by a Polish team that mentions Merenre on a rock wall at Deir el-Bahari on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient
Merenre was probably buried in his pyramid at South Saqqara, though apparently because of his unexpected death, this pyramid was not
yet completed. Until fairly recently, it was believed that the first ever mummy was that of Merenre I, though in reality the mummy
found in his pyramid may not have been that of Merenre. Nevertheless, in 1997, excavations began at Hierakonopolis revealing a large
predyanstic cemetery full of older mummies. However, if the mummy is indeed that of Merenre, it would remain the oldest know royal
Merenre Nemtyemsaf I (reigned 2283-2278 BC) was the fourth king of the Sixth dynasty of Egypt. His nomen, theophorically referring to
Nemty, was formerly read as Antyemsaf, a reading now known to be incorrect.
Merenre was a son of Pepi I and Ankhesenpepi I, and grandson of the female vizier Nebet and her spouse Khui.
While Merenre Nemtyemsaf was once believed to have served as a brief co-regent to his father Pepi I Meryre before ruling in his own
right, the publication of the South Saqqara Stone annal document in 1995 by Vassil Dobrev and Michel Baud shows that Merenre directly
succeeded his father in power with no interregnum or coregency. The badly damaged document preserves the record of Pepi I's final year-
his 25th Count and proceeds immediately to the first year count of Merenre Merenre shared his father's fascination with Nubia and
continued to explore deep into the region. He also began a process of royal consolidation, appointing Weni as the first governor of all
of Upper Egypt and expanding the power of several other governors. While he was once assumed to have died at an early age, recent
archaeological discoveries discount this theory. Two contemporary objects show that his reign lasted more than a decade. His Year after
the 5th Count (Year 10 if biannual) is attested in a quarry inscription from Hatnub Inscription No.6, according to Anthony Spalinger. The
South Saqqara Stone – which was created during Pepi II's reign – credits Merenre with a minimum reign of 11 to 13 Years however which
would raise Merenre's reign length from a traditional figure of 5-6 years. The British Egyptologists Ian Shaw and Paul Nicholson in a
1995 book raised Merenre I's reign from the traditional 6 year figure to 9 years. However, they were unaware of the contents of the
South Saqqara Stone which was published in the same year by Baud & Dobrev and shows that Merenre had a minimum reign of 11 years with no
c0-regency with his father, Pepi I.
Sixth dynasty royal seals found at Saqqara demonstrates that Queen Ankhesenpepi II was both the wife of Pepi I and then Merenre I. Since
the South Saqqara Stone shows Merenre's reign intervened between Pepi I and Pepi II and lasted for a minimum of slightly over a decade,
this indirectly indicates that Merenre I was actually Pepi II's father, rather than Pepi I as was traditionally assumed. Merenre's
daughter was Ankhesenpepi III, the future wife of Pepi II.