Nefermaat I was an ancient Egyptian prince, a son of king 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 I
justice is beautiful[1]
Painting on the wall of Nefermaat's tomb
Painting from Nefermaat's tomb at Meidum
Resting placemastaba 16, Meidum
royal seal bearer
prophet of Bastet
ChildrenVizier Hemiunu; several others
Parent(s)Sneferu and unknown wife


Nefermaat was the eldest son of Sneferu, the king and founder of the Fourth 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 offspring 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. He 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 that then were filled with colored paste. This method was labor-intensive because 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 later, the plaster cracked and resulted in the loss of the paste, likely led to craftsmen abandoning this type of decoration.[5]

Nefermaat's tomb is famous for the scene referred to as the "Meidum Geese" (now in the Egyptian Museum, JE 34571/ CG 1742). Discovered in 1871 by Auguste Mariette and Luigi Vassalli, the scene was executed in painted plaster. The painting was removed from the wall in order to be reassembled inside the Bulaq Museum. The full scene depicts six geese (greylag, greater white-fronted and red-breasted geese, none of which call modern Egypt home); three pointing to the left and three pointing to the right. Each group of three geese consists of one goose shown with head bowed down, eating, and two geese with heads held up. Each group of three animals represents many geese, as three represents the plural in Egyptian imagery. There are differences in the plumage of the birds that breaks 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, suggested that the painting could be a nineteenth-century forgery, possibly made by Vassalli.[7][6] Tiradritti's claims were promptly dismissed by Zahi Hawass and other Egyptian authorities.[6][8]

A 2021 research paper[9] used a biodiversity indicator called the 'Tobias Criteria[10]' to assess the 'Meidum Geese[11]" to see if these geese match with the species they have been identified as depicting. While Greylag and Greater white-fronted geese were consistent with their respective images, Red-breasted geese was a mismatch according to the analysis. Reasons to account for these differences could be due to either: artistic/cultural license; the depiction being a blend of different animals; or is an accurate depiction of an animal that no longer exists. Of these reasons, the study considered other realistic animal art from the Chapel of Itet[12][13][14] (waterfowl, dogs, jackal, leopard, antelope) that are also identifiable to species-level, and suggested it possible the geese painted with red-coloured breast regions may be an unknown extinct goose species.[15][16][17]


  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. Archived from the original on February 18, 2018. 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. ^ Hawass, Zahi (April 9, 2015). "The Meidum Geese Are Not A Fake". Dr. Zahi: The Man with the Hat. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  9. ^ Romilio, A. (2021-04-01). "Assessing 'Meidum Geese' species identification with the 'Tobias criteria'". Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. 36: 102834. doi:10.1016/j.jasrep.2021.102834. ISSN 2352-409X.
  10. ^ Tobias, Joseph A.; Seddon, Nathalie; Spottiswoode, Claire N.; Pilgrim, John D.; Fishpool, Lincoln D. C.; Collar, Nigel J. (2010). "Quantitative criteria for species delimitation". Ibis. 152 (4): 724–746. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.2010.01051.x. ISSN 1474-919X.
  11. ^ Retrieved 2021-03-02. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ Petrie, W. M. Flinders (William Matthew Flinders); Griffith, F. Ll (Francis Llewellyn) (1892). Medum. Cornell University Library. London, D. Nutt.
  13. ^ "tomb-painting | British Museum". The British Museum. Retrieved 2021-03-02.
  14. ^ "tomb-painting | British Museum". The British Museum. Retrieved 2021-03-02.
  15. ^ Romilio, Anthony (2021). A guide to Extinct Animals of Ancient Egypt. South Carolina, USA: Amazon. p. 43. ISBN 9798706305130.
  16. ^ GrrlScientist. "The 'Mona Lisa' Of Ancient Egyptian Art Depicts Extinct Goose". Forbes. Retrieved 2021-03-02.
  17. ^ "It Turns Out That an Ancient Painting Known as 'Egypt's Mona Lisa' Actually Depicts an Extinct Breed of Goose". Artnet News. 2021-02-25. Retrieved 2021-03-02.