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The great royal wife Tiye, matriarch of the Amarna Dynasty - from the Altes Museum in Berlin, Germany

Tiye (c. 1398 BC – 1338 BC, also spelled Taia, Tiy and Tiyi) was the daughter of Yuya and Tjuyu (also spelled Thuyu). She became the Great Royal Wife of the Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep III and matriarch of the Amarna family from which many members of the royal family of Ancient Egypt were born.

Tiye's father, Yuya, was a wealthy landowner from the Upper Egyptian town of Akhmin,[1] where he served as a priest and superintendent of oxen. Tiye's mother, Thuya, was involved in many religious cults, as her different titles attested (Singer of Hathor, Chief of the Entertainers of both Amun and Min...),[2] which suggests that she was a member of the royal family.

It sometimes is suggested that Tiye's father, Yuya, was of Asiatic descent due to the features of his mummy and the many different spellings of his name, which might imply it was a non-Egyptian name in origin.[3] Some suggest that the queen's strong political and unconventional religious views might have been due not just to a strong character, but to foreign descent.[2]

Tiye also had a brother, Anen, who was Second Prophet of Amun.[4] Other egyptologists speculated that Ay, a successor of Tutankhamen as pharaoh after the latter's death, also might have been descended from Tiye. No clear date or monument can confirm the link between the two, but these egyptologists presumed this by Ay's origins, also from Akhmin, and because he inherited most of the titles that Tiye's father, Yuya, held during his lifetime, at the court of Amenhotep III.[2][5]

Tiye was married to Amenhotep III by the second year of his reign. He had been born of a secondary wife of his father and needed a stronger tie to the royal lineage.[6] He appears to have been crowned while still a child, perhaps between the ages of six to twelve. They had at least six children, one of whom, Akhenaten, went on to become pharaoh. Tiye's eldest daughter, Sitamun, also is likely to have married her father, Amenhotep III, and become entitled, Royal Great Wife as well.[7] Recent works explain that it was mostly a symbolical marriage involving many religious and administrative duties, as it occurs during Tiye's lifetime and, probably, with her consent. Other than those two, Tiye also gave birth to Henuttaneb, Nebetiah, Isis, and Thutmosis.[8] A fifth daughter, Baketaten, is presumed as attributed to Tiye, but the father still is not confirmed.[9].

in hieroglyphs
U33 i i Z4 B7

Recent DNA analysis sponsored by the Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities Zahi Hawass published in February 2010, shows that Tutankhamun, the successor of Tiye's son Akhenaten, was born of a brother-sister union.[10] This rules out any possibility that Tutankhamun's mother was Akhenaten's secondary wife Kiya, because no known artifact accords Kiya the title or attribute "the god's daughter." Kiya was not, therefore, the daughter of a Pharaoh (and thus not a daughter of Queen Tiye) and could not have been Akhenaten's sister. An extant mummy, known as The Younger Lady and found in the same tomb (KV35) as Tiye's mummy, was identified through the same DNA testing as being Tutankhamun's mother, but it is unclear which of Akhenaten's sisters it might be; whether Henuttaneb, Nebetiah, Iset, Baketaten, or, if she was indeed Akhenaten's sister, Sitamun.



Queen Tiye, whose husband, Amenhotep III, may have been depicted to her right in this broken statue

Her husband devoted a number of shrines to her and constructed a temple dedicated to her in Sedeinga in Nubia where she was worshipped as a form of the goddess Hathor-Tefnut.[11] He also had an artificial lake built for her in his Year 12.[12] As the American Egyptologists David O'Connor and Eric Cline note:

The unprecedented thing about Tiyi. ... is not where she came from but what she became. No previous queen ever figured so prominently in her husband's lifetime. Tiyi regularly appeared besides Amenhotep III in statuary, tomb and temple reliefs, and stelae while her name is paired with his on numerous small objects, such as vessels and jewelry, not to mention the large commemorative scarabs, where her name regularly follows his in the dateline. New elements in her portraiture, such as the addition of cows' horns and sun disks—attributes of the goddess Hathor—to her headdress, and her representation in the form of a sphinx—an image formerly reserved for the king—emphasize her role as the king's divine, as well as earthly partner. Amenhotep III built a temple to her in Sedeinga in northern Sudan, where she was worshiped as a form of Hathor ... The temple at Sedeinga was the pendant to Amenhotep III's own, larger temple at Soleb, fifteen kilometres to the south (an arrangement followed a century later by Ramses II at Abu Simbel, where there are likewise two temples, the larger southern temple dedicated to the king, and the smaller, northern temple dedicated to the queen, Nefertiry, as Hathor).[13]

Influence at court

Tiye wielded a great deal of power during both her husband’s and son’s reigns. Amenhotep III became a fine sportsman, a lover of outdoor life, and a great statesman. He often had to consider claims for Egypt's gold and requests for his royal daughters in marriage from foreign kings such as Tushratta of Mitanni and Kadashman-Enlil I of Babylon. The royal lineage was carried by the women of Ancient Egypt and marriage to one would have been a path to the throne for their progeny. Tiye became her husband’s trusted adviser and confidant. Being wise, intelligent, strong, and fierce, she was able to gain the respect of foreign dignitaries. Foreign leaders were willing to deal directly through her. She continued to play an active role in foreign relations and was the first Egyptian queen to have her name recorded on official acts.[14]

She may have continued to advise her son, Akhenaten, when he took the throne. Her son’s correspondence with Tushratta, the king of Mitanni, speaks highly of the political influence which Tiye wielded at court. In Amarna letter EA 26, Tushratta, king to Mitanni, corresponded directly with Tiye to reminisce about the good relations which he enjoyed with her then deceased husband and extended his wish to continue on friendly terms with her son, Akhenaten.[15]

Amenhotep III died in Year 38 or Year 39 of his reign (1353 BC/1350 BC) and was buried in the Valley of the Kings in WV22, however, Tiye is known to have outlived him for as many as twelve years. Tiye continued to be mentioned in the Amarna letters and in inscriptions as queen and beloved of the king. Amarna letter EA 26 which is addressed to Tiye, dates to the reign of Akhenaten. She is known to have had a house at Amarna, Akhenaten's new capital and is shown on the walls of the tomb of Huya – a "steward in the house of the king's mother, the great royal wife Tiyi" – depicted at a dinner table with Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and their family and then being escorted by the king to her sunshade.[16] In an inscription approximately dated to November 21 of Year 12 of Akhenaten's reign (1338 BC), both she and her granddaughter Meketaten are mentioned for the last time. They are thought to have died shortly after that date.

In 1898, Victor Loret discovered a mummy of Amenhotep III. Alongside it was the mummy of an "Elder Lady". The identification of the "Elder Lady" as Tiye, had found considerable support among scholars and was confirmed in February 2010 in a DNA project that also identified the body of Akhenaten.[17] A lock of Tiye's hair was found in a nest of miniature coffins in Tutankhamun's tomb which is stated as belonging explicitly to Tiye.[18]

Fragmentary funerary mask of Queen Tiye - in the Ägyptisches Museum collection in Berlin

If Tiye died soon after Year 12 of Akhenaten's reign (1338 BC), this would place her birth around 1398 BC, her marriage to Amenhotep III at the age of eleven or twelve, and her becoming a widow at the age of forty-eight to forty-nine. Suggestions of a co-regency between Amenhotep III and his son Akhenaten lasting for up to twelve years continue, but most scholars today, either accept a brief co-regency lasting no more than one year at the most,[19] or no co-regency at all.[16]


Tiye is believed to have been originally buried in Akhenaten's royal tomb at Amarna alongside her son and granddaughter, Meketaten, as a fragment from the tomb not long ago was identified as being from her sarcophagus. Her gilded burial shrine (showing her with Akhenaten) ended up in KV55 while shabtis belonging to her were found in Amenhotep III's WV22 tomb.[20]

In the tomb KV35, a mummy known as the Elder Lady was identified as hers. The British scholars Aidan Dodson & Dyan Hilton once stated that "it seems very unlikely that her mummy could be the so-called 'Elder Lady' in the tomb of Amenhotep II."[20] Evidence cited to support this view includes examinations stating that the Elder Lady's teeth look as if they were those of a twenty-nine year old rather than a fifty-nine year old. However, recent evidence (DNA analysis) of the Elder Woman's teeth and the lock of hair found in Tutankhamun's tomb proves that the body is Tiye[21] and is nearer to a middle aged woman. This was further proven in February 2010, when the mummy was officially identified via DNA testing along with multiple other Amarna era mummies.[22]


  1. ^ Joyce Tyldesley, Chronicles of the Queens of Egypt. Thames & Hudson: London, 2006. p.115
  2. ^ a b c Joyce Tyldesley, Chronicles of the Queens of Egypt. Thames & Hudson: London, 2006. p.116
  3. ^ David O'Connor & Eric Cline, Amenhotep III: Perspectives on His Reign, University of Michigan, 1998, p.5
  4. ^ David O'Connor & Eric Cline, Amenhotep III: Perspectives on his reign, University of Michigan Press, 1998, pp.5-6
  5. ^ Ian Shaw, The Oxford history of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press: London, 2003. p.253
  6. ^ David O'Connor & Eric Cline, p.5
  7. ^ Joyce Tyldesley, Chronicles of the Queens of Egypt. Thames & Hudson: London, 2006. p.121
  8. ^ Ian Shaw, The Oxford history of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press: London, 2003. p.259
  9. ^ Joyce Tyldesley, Chronicles of the Queens of Egypt. Thames & Hudson: London, 2006. p.120
  10. ^ Hawass, Zahi et al. "Ancestry and Pathology in King Tutankhamun's Family" The Journal of the American Medical Association p.640-641
  11. ^ David O'Connor & Eric Cline, p.6
  12. ^ Arielle Kozloff & Betsy Bryan, "Royal and Divine Statuary" in Egypt’s Dazzling Sun: Amenhotep III and his World, Cleveland: 1992, no.2
  13. ^ David O'Connor & Eric Cline, pp.6-7.
  14. ^ Joyce Tyldesley, Chronicles of the Queens of Egypt. Thames & Hudson: London, 2006. p.118
  15. ^ [1] EA 26 - A Letter from Tushratta to Tiye
  16. ^ a b David O'Connor & Eric Cline, p.23
  17. ^ Hawass, Zahi et al. "Ancestry and Pathology in King Tutankhamun's Family" The Journal of the American Medical Association p.640-641
  18. ^ Dodson & Hilton, The Royal Families of Ancient Egypt p.157
  19. ^ Nicholas Reeves, Akhenaten: The False Prophet, pp.75-78
  20. ^ a b Dodson & Hilton, p.157
  21. ^ accessed 27 June 2009
  22. ^ Hawass, Zahi et al. "Ancestry and Pathology in King Tutankhamun's Family" The Journal of the American Medical Association p.640-641

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