Maya was an important figure during the reign of Pharaohs Tutankhamun, Ay and Horemheb of the eighteenth dynasty of Ancient Egypt. Maya's titles include: fan bearer on the King's right hand, overseer of the treasury, chief of the works in the necropolis, and leader of the festival of Amun in Karnak.
Maya was the son of a magistrate named Iuy and his wife Weret. He had a half-brother named Nahuher who is shown officiating in his tomb in Saqqara. Maya was married to a lady named Meryt, and they had two daughters named Mayamenti and Tjauenmaya.
The early years of Maya's life and career are not well known. It is possible that Maya started his career during the reign of Amenhotep III. He may be the same person as a royal scribe named Maya who is attested in Malkata in year 34. He may also be the same person as a courtier named May known from a tomb in Amarna during the reign of Akhenaten. The May from Amarna shares some of the titles with Maya, but he was not a treasurer.
Maya is well known from the reign of Tutankhamen however. As the Overseer of the treasuries, he was also an important official and was noted for restoring the burials of several earlier Pharaohs in the Royal Necropolis in the years following the deaths of Tutankhamun and Ay. It is possible that he personally left a hand written text in the tomb of Thutmose IV stating that he had been charged with the restoration of the burial of the king. Maya would have reported to the vizier of Lower Egypt, who was based in Memphis.
Maya collected taxes and performed other services for these pharaohs, including supervising the preparation of their tombs.
Maya contributed an Ushabti to the funerary furnishings for King Tutankhamen. He also presented the king with a figure of the King in the guise of the god Osiris. Both items were inscribed and recorded that Maya was the donor of the statues.
Maya is known to have lived until at least year 8 of Horemheb when an inscription mentions he was charged with tax collection for the entire country and organizing offerings for the gods. He is also depicted in TT50, the tomb of a divine father of Amun named Neferhotep. Maya is depicted between King Horemheb and the viziers showing his close relation to the king.
Tomb and burial
Maya's own tomb at Saqqara was initially partly excavated in 1843 by the archaeologist Karl Richard Lepsius, and its impressive reliefs were recorded in sketches and some of them brought to Berlin. Over time, however, the tomb was covered by sand, and its location was lost. In 1975, a joint expedition of archaeologists from the Egypt Exploration Society in London and the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden, Netherlands began a quest to rediscover the tomb, and on February 6, 1986 they finally succeeded. On this date, Professor Geoffrey T. Martin together with Dr. Jacobus Van Dijk representing the Leiden museum discovered the burial chamber of Maya's subterranean tomb at Saqqara some 18 metres (60 feet) below the surface.
As Martin states:
- "We were in total darkness for about 15 minutes...Suddenly we glimpsed wonderful reliefs and were extremely startled to find ourselves in the antechamber leading to a burial chamber. My colleague looked across at an inscribed wall and said, 'My God, it's Maya'."
The first full season's work on Maya's burial in early 1987 indicated that his tomb is "a slightly smaller and abbreviated version of Horemheb's Saqqara tomb. An open courtyard has a collanade on its west side and doors leading to three vaulted ceilings. An inner courtyard has been found to contain reliefs of very fine quality and a statue of Maya and his wife." The underground burial chambers were paved with limestone and decorated with reliefs showing Maya and his wife in front of gods.
The statues of Maya and his wife Merit have been put on display in the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, Netherlands since 1823. Recently, the pair has been lended to The Archeological Civic Museum (MCA) of Bologna from 17 October 2015 to 17 July 2016.
- Martin, Geoffrey T. (1991). The Hidden Tombs of Memphis. Thames & Hudson, ISBN 0-500-39026-6. p. 147-188
- Saqqara.nl: Tomb of Maya & Merit (found in 1986)
- Dodson, Aidan (2009). Amarna Sunset: Nefertiti, Tutankhamun, Ay, Horemheb and the Egyptian Counter-Reformation. AUC Press.
- Hobson, Christine (1987). Exploring the World of the Pharaohs: A Complete Guide to Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson. p. 115.
- Rijksmuseum van Oudheden: Statue of Maya and Merit, retrieved 27 April 2017
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- Rice, Michael (1999). Who's Who in Ancient Egypt. Routledge. p. 106.
- David, Ann Rosalie (2000). The Experience of Ancient Egypt. Routledge. pp. 107ff.