‘Hello, mummy!’ returns this week and focuses on a true beauty of the 18th Dynasty, Queen Tiye.
Queen Tiye was the Great Royal Wife of Amenhotep III and the mother of the pharaoh Akhenaten. She was also the grandmother of Tutankhamun.
Tiye was married to Amenhotep III by Year 2 of his reign but there is some debate about her origins. Her father, Yuya, does not appear to have been of royal blood; however, Tiye’s mother, Tuya, held many religious titles leading to speculation that she may have been royalty. Due to her father’s features and name, it is believed that Tiye may have been of non-Egyptian descent.
Tiye certainly held great influence during the reign of her husband and that of her son, Amenhotep IV, who later became Akhenaten. She is known to have held the respect of foreign dignitaries and is believed to have acted as an adviser to both pharaohs. Letters indicate that she communicated directly with foreign leaders. This has led some scholars to believe that Tiye was of Nubian descent as strong female rulers were a Nubian custom. She is often depicted in statuary as the same height as her husband (above), indicating her elevated position. Tiye is commemorated on many royal monuments from the reigns of both her husband and her son. Amenhotep III constructed a temple for her at Sedeinga in Nubia (above). Here she was represented as the goddess Hathor-Tefnut, associated with the fearsome ‘Eye of Ra’. Carvings from this temple depict the queen as a powerful striding sphinx (below), a representation more often reserved for pharaohs.
The original burial place of Queen Tiye is disputed; however, it is likely that she was originally buried in KV 22, the tomb of her husband, Amenhotep III. It is is thought that her mummy was moved to KV 55 before finally being laid to rest in KV 35, the tomb of Amenhotep II, during the 21st Dynasty when the tomb was used as a cache. Her mummy was discovered, unwrapped, laying beside two others (below).
The identity of the mummy, known simply as ‘The Elder Lady’, remained uncertain until 2010 when DNA testing, organised by Dr Zahi Hawass, indicated that ‘The Elder Lady’ was Queen Tiye.
Although the mummy was badly damaged by tomb robbers, Tiye still retains the beauty of a queen with her long flowing locks and elegant facial features. It is evident that she has always been a beautiful woman.
The mummy of Queen Tiye now resides in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Bibliography and further reading:
Dodson, Aidan, & Dyan Hilton. 2004. The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. London: Thames & Hudson.
Hawass, Zahi et al. 2010. “Ancestry and Pathology in King Tutankhamun’s Family” The Journal of the American Medical Association 330: 640-641.
O’Connor, David, & Eric H. Cline. 1998. Amenhotep III: Perspectives on His Reign. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
The Theban Royal Mummy Project – Tiye. Available from: http://members.tripod.com/anubis4_2000/mummypages1/18B.htm#Tiye
Tyldesley, Joyce. 2006. Chronicle of the Queens of Egypt. London: Thames & Hudson.