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Queen consort (1400-1400)
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Queen consort (1400-1400)
Countries Egypt
Occupations Queen consort
Gender female
Birth January 1, 1400 (Thebes, Luxor Governorate, Egypt)
Death January 1, 1400
Mother: Nefertiti
Father: Akhenaten
Siblings: MeketatenAnkhesenamunNeferneferuaten TasheritNeferneferureSetepenreMeritaten TasheritAnkhesenpaaten Tasherit
Spouse: Smenkhkare
Children: Meritaten Tasherit
The details

Meritaten also spelled Merytaten or Meryetaten (14th century BC) was an ancient Egyptian queen of the Eighteenth dynasty, who held the position of Great Royal Wife to Pharaoh Smenkhkare, who may have been a brother or son of Akhenaten. Her name means "She who is beloved of Aten"; Aten being the sun-god her father worshipped; Meritaten also may have served as pharaoh in her own right under the name, Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten.


Meritaten was the first of six daughters born to Pharaoh Akhenaten and his Great Royal Wife, Nefertiti. Her sisters are Meketaten, Ankhesenpaaten, Neferneferuaten Tasherit, Neferneferure, and Setepenre. She was married to Pharaoh Smenkhare.

Inscriptions mention a young princess named Meritaten Tasherit, who may be the daughter of Meritaten and Smenkhare. Inscriptions from Ashmunein suggest that Meritaten-tasherit is the daughter of Meritaten. The scene dates to the reign of Akhenaten, and this means the father of the young princess could be Akhenaten himself. If so, this means Akhenaten took his own daughters as a wife. Another princess named Ankhesenpaaten Tasherit had been suggested as an additional daughter of Meritaten, but it is more likely that she is a daughter of Ankhesenpaaten.


Early years in Thebes

She was born early in her father's reign most likely in Thebes. The royal family lived in Thebes, and the royal palace may have been part of the Temple Complex of Akhenaten at Karnak. The exact use of the buildings in Karnak is not known but the scenes decorating the Teni-menu suggest it may have served as a residence. Meritaten is depicted beside her mother Nefertiti in reliefs carved into the Hut-Benben. The Hut-Benben was a structure associated with Nefertiti, who is the main officiant in the scenes. Meritaten appears behind her mother shaking a sistrum. Her younger sisters Meketaten and Ankhesenpaaten also appear in some of the scenes but not as often as Meritaten.

Amarna Princess

Amarna Princess - Museum in Berlin
Alabaster sunken relief depicting Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and daughter Meritaten. Early Aten cartouches on king's arm and chest. From Amarna, Egypt. 18th Dynasty. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London

In year 5 of her father Akhenaten's reign, Meritaten appears on the boundary stelae designating the boundaries of the new capital. During Akhenaten's reign, she was the most frequently depicted and mentioned of the six daughters. Her figure appears on paintings in temples, tombs, and private chapels. She is shown not only on the pictures showing the family life of the pharaoh, which were typical of the Amarna Period, but on official ceremonies too.

The two structures most associated with Meritaten at Amarna are the North Palace and the Maru-Aten. The Maru-Aten was located to the south of the city limits of Amarna. The structure consisted of two enclosures containing pools or lakes and pavilions set in an area planted with trees. An artificial island contained a pillared construction which held a painted pavement showing scenes from nature.

Meritaten's name seems to replace that of another royal lady in several places, among them in the Northern Palace and in the Maru-Aten. This had been misinterpreted as evidence of Nefertiti's disgrace and banishment from the royal court but, more recently, the erased inscriptions turned out to be the name of Kiya, one of Akhenaten's secondary wives, disproving that interpretation.

Meritaten is mentioned in diplomatic letters, by the name Mayati. She is mentioned in a letter from Abimilki of Tyre. The reference is usually thought to date to the period when Meritaten's position at court became more important during the latter part of the reign of Akhenaten. It is possible, however, that the letter refers to the birth of Meritaten.

Great Royal Wife

Smenkhare and Meritaten shown in the tomb of Meryre II
Inscription mentioning Akhenaten, Neferneferuaten and Meritaten. From the tomb of Tutankhamen

Meritaten appears as a Great Royal Wife in the tomb of Meryre II in Amarna. She is depicted alongside her husband, Pharaoh Ankhkheperure Smenkhare-djeserkheperu. The scene shows the royal couple bestowing honors and gifts on Meryre. The scene appears on the wall adjacent to the wall depicting the Durbar of year 12. Smenkhare may have served as a co-regent to Akhenaten. Meritaten was the Great Royal Wife to Smenkhare, while Nefertiti continued as the consort of Akhenaten. Nefertiti still held the Great Royal Wife title in year 16, hence Smenkhare must have been a co-regent or otherwise ruled with his wife Meritaten sometime after year 16 of Akhenaten.

Meritaten is mentioned on gold daisies that decorated a garment found in Tutankhamen's tomb. She is also mentioned on a wooden box meant to contain linen garments. The box mentions two kings: Neferkheperure-Waenre (Akhenaten) and Ankhkheperure-mr-waenre, Neferneferuaten-mr-waenre and the Great Royal Wife Meritaten.

According to some scholars such as J.P. Allen, Ankhkheperure Smenkhkare ruled together with Meritaten, but in the year following Akhenaten's death Smenkhkare himself died. The theory is that Meritaten was the 'king's daughter' Akenkeres who is recorded in Manetho's Epitome to have assumed the throne for herself as the female king Neferneferuaten. Neferneferuaten is assigned a reign of 2 years and 1 month and is placed in Manetho's account as the immediate predecessor of Rathothis, who is believed to be Tutankhamun.

Death and Burial

The texts of the boundary stele mention that Meritaten was meant to be buried at Akhet-Aten (modern Amarna).

The Royal tomb in Amarna was used for the burial of Meketaten, Tiye and Akhenaten and likely closed after the death and burial of Akhenaten. Meritaten's burial may have been planned for one of the other royal tombs in Amarna.

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