One of the most important functions on any computer system is the Document Manager – that busy piece of software responsible for creating, maintaining, filing and retrieving documents of all forms. While it wasn’t a software job back in the 24th century BCE, document manager was still an important position as illustrated by a recent discovery in Egypt of the fancy tomb of the royal clerk of Pharaoh Userkare – a pharaoh with plenty of secret documents to manage, store … and hide.
"For now, we have only unveiled the facade of the chapel, the interior is waiting for the next excavation campaign. Probably thanks to a good job, Mehczeczi was able to hire an efficient team of craftsmen, because his chapel is decorated with reliefs of exceptional beauty"
In a press release by the University of Warsaw, Prof. Kamil O. Kuraszkiewicz from the Faculty of Oriental Studies introduces Mehczeczi, whose lavish tomb indicates he held a position of great stature in the court of Pharaoh Userkare, the second pharaoh of the Sixth Dynasty who reigned for about five years in the late 24th to early 23rd century BCE. While brief, Userkare's time at the top appears to have been scandalous – historians link him to a harem plot to assassinate his father and predecessor, Pharaoh Teti. For that, he was deemed illegitimate in the eyes of his successor, Pepi I, and there is no mention of Userkare in tombs and biographies of other Egyptian officials. Moreover, no pyramid or tomb of Userkare has been found. That makes the fancy tomb of Mehczeczi even more indicative of his importance in the reigns of Userkare and Teti.
“But the relief itself reveals an exceptionally skilled hand - elegant lines, subtle modeling - of an artist at least as good as the best of the authors of the reliefs in Merefnebef's tomb.”
Professor Kuraszkiewicz says the decorations on the walls of Mehczeczi’s tomb were comparable to those of his boss, Merefnebef -- a well-respected vizier in the Sixth Dynasty of Egypt, acting is the highest official under the pharaoh. Merefnebef’s fancy tomb was discovered in 1997 in the so-called Dry Moat surrounding the Step Pyramid, the oldest pyramid in Egypt built 4,700 years ago. Professor Kuraszkiewicz believes the Dry Moat symbolizes the boundary protecting the sacred (the tomb and the afterlife) from the profane (the living). Those elaborate reliefs indicate Mehczeczi could hire high-quality craftsmen. How could he afford them? One of the reliefs answers that question – Mehczeczi was admitted to the secrets of the Pharaoh's archive of documents.
“It can be assumed that this title is not so much about the category of documents as about access to the stage of their creation. Perhaps he had a right to know what documents were produced at the royal chancellery before they were published.”
That sounds like an important job … especially working for a nefarious pharaoh like Userkare with plenty to hide. Since Mehczeczi also worked in the same capacity for Pharaoh Teti, as well as inspector of the royal estate and the priest of the tomb of Teti, he was there when documents were created involving the possible assignation and palace coup. Unfortunately, the tomb and chapel are old, so the colors have faded and the rock is heavily eroded and crumbling. Prof. Kuraszkiewicz has workers restoring the reliefs and others looking for the shaft in which the owner Mehczeczi was buried.
Was Mehczeczi one of the earliest document managers? Does his fancy tomb highlight the importance of the position – even thousands of years ago? Think about that the next time you complain to the IT department about your company’s document manager.