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Nefermaat I
Painting on the wall of Nefermaat's tomb
Tomb painting from Nefermaat's tomb at Meidum
Native name Nfr-m3ˁt
(With) perfect justice[1]
Resting place mastaba 16, Meidum
Occupation vizier
royal seal bearer
prophet of Bastet
Spouse(s) Itet
Children Vizier Hemiunu; several others
Parent(s) Sneferu and unknown queen

Nefermaat I was an Egyptian prince, a son of pharaoh Sneferu. He was a vizier possessing the titles of the king's eldest son,[2] royal seal bearer, and prophet of Bastet. His name means "Maat is beautiful" or "With perfect justice".


Nefermaat was the eldest son of Sneferu, the pharaoh and founder of the 4th Dynasty of Egypt, and his first wife. He was a half-brother of Khufu. Nefermaat's wife was Itet, also spelled as Atet. Fifteen of Nefermaat's children are named in his tomb, sons Hemiunu, Isu, Teta, Khentimeresh and daughters Djefatsen and Isesu are depicted as adults, while sons Itisen, Inkaef, Serfka, Wehemka, Shepseska, Kakhent, Ankhersheretef, Ankherfenedjef, Buneb, Shepsesneb and Nebkhenet and daughter Pageti are shown as children. His son Hemiunu is probably identical with vizier Hemiunu who was believed to have helped plan the Great Pyramids. One of Nefermaat's sisters, Nefertkau had a son also called Nefermaat.[3]


Tomb of Nefermaat in Meidum

Nefermaat was buried in mastaba 16 at Meidum. Nefermaat was one of several relatives of Pharaoh Sneferu who was buried in Meidum. The tomb is known for the special technique used for drawing the scenes. Sculptors carved deeply incised images which were then filled with colored paste. This method was labor-intensive and the paste tended to dry, crack and then fall out.[4] The technique results in vividly colored scenes. This tomb is the only one known to date showing this technique. The fact that the plaster cracked resulting in the loss of the paste likely led to the craftsmen abandoning this type of decoration.[5]

Nefermaat's tomb is also famous for the scene referred to as the "Meidum Geese" (now in the Egyptian Museum, JE 34571/ CG 1742). The scene executed in painted plaster was discovered in 1871 by Auguste Mariette and Luigi Vassalli, and removed from the wall by the latter in order to being reassembled inside the Bulaq Museum. The full scene depicts six geese; three pointing to the left and three pointing to the right. Each group of three geese consists of one goose shown with his head bowed down, eating grass and two geese with their heads held up. The group of three animals actually represents many geese, as three represents the plural in Egyptian writing. There are differences in the plumage of the birds which break the overall symmetry of the scene. This example of Egyptian painting is considered a masterpiece.[5][6]

A 2015 research paper by Francesco Tiradritti at the Kore University of Enna, published on LiveScience, suggests that the painting could be a 19th-century forgery, possibly made by Vassalli himself.[7][8][6] Tiradritti's claims were promptly dismissed by Zahi Hawass and other Egyptian authorities.[6][9]


  1. ^ Hermann Ranke: Die ägyptischen Personennamen. Verlag von J. J. Augustin in Glückstadt, 1935., p. 196
  2. ^ Nefermaat page from digitalegypt (University College London)
  3. ^ Dodson, Aidan and Hilton, Dyan. The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson. 2004. ISBN 0-500-05128-3, pp.52-53, 56-61
  4. ^ The Egyptian Museum in Cairo: a walk through the alleys of ancient Egypt, by Farid Atiya, Abeer El-Shahawy, Farid S. Atiya, page 71
  5. ^ a b Tiradritti,F. (editor), Egyptian Treasures from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Harry N. Abrams Inc. 1999, pp. 60-61, ISBN 0-8109-3276-8
  6. ^ a b c El-Aref, Nevine (April 9, 2015). "Controversy over the Meidum Geese". Al-Ahram Weekly. Cairo. Retrieved September 28, 2015. 
  7. ^ Owen, Jarus (March 31, 2015). "Shocking Discovery: Egypt's 'Mona Lisa' May Be a Fake". LiveScience. Retrieved September 28, 2015. 
  8. ^ "RebelMouse vs. WordPress VIP". RebelMouse. 2017-05-10. Retrieved 2018-02-26. 
  9. ^ Hawass, Zahi (April 9, 2015). "The Meidum Geese Are Not A Fake". Dr. Zahi: The Man with the Hat. Retrieved 15 July 2018.