TUTANKHAMUN’S FAMILY | QUEEN TIYE

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TUTANKHAMUN’S FAMILY | QUEEN TIYE

The great royal wife of Amenhotep III, queen Tiye has gone down in history for the important role she played at her husband’s side and in her son’s (Pharaoh Akhenaten’s) administration.

Originating from Akhmīm, a sacred town whose deity was Min, in Upper Egypt, Tiye was the daughter of Yuya and Tjuya, two well-known (non-royal) senior officials who had the immense privilege of being buried in the Valley of the Kings.

There are many representations of queen Tiye dating from the reign of Amenhotep III. The king gave enormous prominence to the queen in his monuments. In one colossal statue they sit side by side, the queen as large as the king, which was quite unusual in ancient Egypt where the queen was usually much smaller in scale. Sometimes, Tiye was represented at the feet of her husband, helping him rule Egypt by fulfilling her role as a wife and mother.

Like all the Egyptian queens, Tiye also played a ceremonial role and participated in the official ceremonies with the Pharaoh. She gave birth to the king’s children—in particular his successor—, thereby demonstrating the king’s vigour and contributing to the establishment of a model family in accordance with the maat, the social and natural order of the universe.

Queen Tiye also played a diplomatic role, and continued to do so during her son’s reign: she is mentioned in the diplomatic correspondence known as the Amarna Letters, which was discovered at Tell el-Amarna, Akhenaten’s capital city. The archives, which were written on clay tablets in Akkadian, the diplomatic language of the period, contain copies of the letters exchanged between Akhenaten and the rulers of the great powers in the Orient. Having survived her husband, Tiye was summoned as a witness to the commitments made by Amenhotep III to the rulers who corresponded with Akhenaten.

Tiye died in the middle of her son’s reign. Initially buried in the Royal Tomb at Amarna, her body was subsequently transferred to the Theban region and placed in the tomb of her husband, Amenhotep III, at the beginning of Tutankhamun’s reign. Moreover, Tutankhamun took a lock of hair to his grave, which is often considered a souvenir of his grandmother, whom he never really knew.

Queen Nefertiti, Akhenaten’s wife, and the vizier and king Ay, Tutankhamun’s successor, probably both originated from Akhmīm and may have been related to Tiye; these three figures attest to the importance of this town for the royal family at the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty.

Later, in the Twenty-First Dynasty, Tiye’s body was once again transferred—together with other royal mummies—to Amenhotep II’s tomb, in order to protect her from increasingly frequent looting in the Valley of the Kings.

The burial furniture from the tomb of Yuya and Tjuya, Amenhotep III’s parents-in-law, has survived in remarkably good condition and is in many ways reminiscent of that of Tutankhamun, even though it is less lavish: a chariot, finery, furniture, and funerary objects—which are sometimes inscribed with the name Satamon, the daughter of Amenhotep III and Tiye who died prematurely—were discovered in the tomb.

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Thumbnail Image: Tiye, Rama. Attribution- Share Alike 2.0 France
Background Image: Aerial View of The temple of Hatshepsut near Luxor in Egypt, Ratnakorn Piyasirisorost/Getty Images