Amennakht before Meretseger
The Scribe of the Place of Truth, Amennakht (New Kingdom, 20th Dynasty, c. 1170 B.C.) kneels before the goddess Meretseger, “She who loves silence”. Amennakht, is in praise of Meretseger who sits before him on a throne of red, blue and orange. She is wearing a red dress and a cuff on her upper left arm and right wrist. Upon the goddesses head is the double plum and sun disc, a uraeus with a cobra protrudes forth. She holds a red-stemmed lotus in one hand and a symbol of life in the other, known as the ankh. Her skin is a faded yellow.
Amennakht, as he kneels before the goddess, is wearing a shoulder-length wig and shendyt (kilt), alongside a pair of cuffs or bracelets adorning each arm. His skin is a reddish orange. Between Amennakht and the goddess Meretseger, an offering table full of tribute stands.
In the form of a cobra goddess, “Beloved of Him Who Makes Silence (Osiris)”; Meretseger is the goddess of the Theban Peak (El Qurn) (Ancient Egyptian: Ta Dehent); a cliff overlooking the Valley of the Kings. Meretseger’s role was to protect the Necropolis of Thebes, of which the artists and builders of Deir el-Medina spent their lives working on.
Therefore, Meretseger became a protective figure for the workers too, and she essentially became the patron goddess of the village, worshipped alongside Hathor, Amun, Thoth, King Amenhotep I who became deified after his death, and of course, the creator god Ptah, who held special notoriety among Egyptian artisans and creatives.
Meretseger’s cobra qualities also came into play when it came to keeping the Necropolis safe. It was believed that she would watch over the workers in protection, but also to keep an eye on those who may have other motives.
It was thought she would inflict harm on those who decided to steal from the Necropolis, punishing such thieves with her bite.
However, despite this, Meretseger was a forgiving deity who would accept apology and regret in the form of adoration among other things, and continue her protective manner over the workers, using her snake ability to frighten off even desert creatures who may inflict harm to the workers building the Necropolis.
When looking at the votive Stela of Amennakht, you may notice that both Amennakht and the goddess Meretseger are missing their eyes.
The missing eyes may be overlooked as a blunder by the artist or simply time eroding what once was, but upon reading the text of the stela, one may easily conclude that the missing eyes held meaningful purpose.
The declaration by Amennakht, addressing the goddess with the line “You made me see darkness in the day”, may actually refer to the loss of Amennakht’s vision, and not just a symbolic phrase looking to Meretseger for solace while suffering through hardships. This specific adoration makes it much more likely that the missing eyes are in fact a symbol of actual blindness, with Amennakht acknowledging Meretseger for providing the divine purpose behind him losing his eyesight, rather than mere artist oversight,
Praises for your spirit, Meretseger, Mistress of the West, by the Scribe of the Place of Truth
Amennakht true-of-voice; he says: ‘Be praised in peace, O Lady of the West, Mistress who turns herself to grace! You made me see darkness in the day. I shall declare your power to other people. Be gracious to me in your grace!’
– Inscription translation. British Museum. EA374
Blindness in Ancient Egypt has been depicted multiple times in art with the famous blind harpists most notable. The British Museum writes that, the blindness was a rather “common affliction” in Egypt and likely the Ancient world itself.
Votive Stelae were commissioned pieces of prayer and tribute to the deity of one’s choice. Sometimes, they could be made by loved ones of the deceased, too.
The stelae were usually made of stone and carved with imagery and texts of the commissioner’s choosing. They come in varied styles and were made for varied reasons.
One could be commissioned in order to receive good will in the afterlife, another could be praises or thanks to specific deities, and some could be a request to deities for good health and even pregnancy.
Votive Stela of Amennakht:
New Kingdom, 20th Dynasty, c. 1170 B.C.
Deir el-Medina, Thebes.
British Museum. EA374