Meritamen is an actual woman who lived a few hundred years after the general time frame where I place my “Tales of the Gods” paranormal novels. That’s her in the photo, as depicted by royal sculptors. She was the daughter of Ramses the Great and his favorite wife, Nefertari, and had at least four brothers and a younger sister. She played the sistrum, she danced, she sang…she was evidently a great favorite with Ramses II, being depicted in many of the official statues and paintings with him. Some of the titles and inscriptions regarding Meritamen talk of her being “fair of face,” with a beautiful forehead, as well as references to her perfume and that she was apparently very well spoken.
There’s a scene in her tomb where she’s depicted as bringing boxes of clothing with her to the Afterlife. I love that touch!
So why are we talking about this relatively minor figure, shown to the left in a reproduction of a painting from her tomb? Out of all the players in ancient Egypt’s thousands of years of history, what makes her my blog subject today?
While writing my novels, I’ve built up a collection of what I call “faux Egyptiana” – museum reproductions of famous statues, trading cards and woodcuts from the late 1800’s depicting tomb paintings and scenes, modern papyrus paintings that approximate the gorgeous art of the ancients, fashion jewelry – but my budget doesn’t run to any “real” antiquities. I do from time to time, however, indulge in minor purchases of amulet beads purporting to be from the Egyptian New Kingdom, which is the era I’ve placed my novels in.
A few weeks ago I gave in to the intense desire to own this tiny scarab made of blue steatite (a form of soapstone) with what is believed to be Meritamen’s cartouche on the flat side. The bead came with a scholarly discourse stating the amulet can quite reasonably be assumed to have been hers, based on technical considerations too numerous to mention here. I loved the idea of having something that actually dates back to the time frame I write about.
OK, I can hear the sceptics now. Even with a great provenance and scholarly details, there’s no proof this bead is really hers or is thousands of years old. I do know that. Even in the days of ancient Greece and Rome, clever artisans made fake “antiquities” for the tourists to buy. So it’s probably a skillful fake. But…
But I choose to believe this might be real. When the package came and I gingerly took the tiny bead out (it’s about the size of my thumbnail) I felt this indescribable flash of something…this bead isn’t like anything else I’ve ever unwrapped. I can’t really describe it any better than that. I felt I was holding a fragment of antiquity in my hand.
Fake, real? Does it ultimately matter? For a few moments a connection has been forged between me and this genuine person from the time I write about, and now there’s a link between you and Meritamen as well.
Photos courtesy of Wikimedia: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License and represents no endorsement of the post or of Veronica Scott by Kurohito (photo #1) or Anneke Bart (photo #2) respectively. Photos of scarab bead are author’s own.