The Oriental Institute/the University of Chicago

Hert-watet-khet, the wife of Mereruka, plays the harp for her husband in this panting from Mereruka’s tomb in Saqqara. Mereruka, an advisor to Pharaoh Tety (2350‒2338 B.C.E.), is shown reclining and relaxed with his wife on a large bed. The music and the bed may indicate that Mereruka is preparing to mate with his wife. Over his left shoulder, the vizier holds a fly whisk made of three fox skins, which form a hieroglyph meaning “rebirth.” The scene as a whole, then, may have depicted Mereruka preparing to be reborn—by coupling with his wife—in the afterlife.