About the Art

Riverboat, Tomb of Meketre,
ca. 1981–1975 B.C.

Watch a scene from Hidden Treasures

Meketre was a high official and chancellor under several kings of the late Eleventh and early Twelfth Dynasties. His tomb had been robbed in ancient times; but, in 1920, while cleaning the area in order to make an exact plan of the tomb, archeologists discovered two places the grave robbers had missed. One was a small chamber hidden in the floor of the passageway inside the tomb. Although the contents were slightly jumbled due to a partial ceiling collapse, no one had entered the chamber since it had been sealed almost four thousand years earlier.

Packed tightly into the space were twenty-four painted wooden models of boats, offering bearers, and buildings containing craftsmen and preparers of food. Their function was to provide Meketre’s spirit with sustenance and magical assistance in the afterlife.Meketre

Meketre is seated, smelling a lotus blossom, in the shade of a small cabin, which, on an actual boat, would have been made of a light wooden framework with linen or leather hangings. Here the hangings have been partly rolled up to let the breeze through. Wooden shields covered with bulls’ hides are painted on each side of the roof. A singer, with his hand to his lips, and a blind harpist entertain Meketre on his voyage.