Tutankhamun’s family – chapter II: Tiy, his grandmother
The great royal wife of Amenhotep III, Queen Tiy has gone down in history for the important role she played at her husband’s side, and then in her son’s—the Pharaoh Akhenaton’s—administration.
Originating from Akhmīm, a sacred town whose deity was Min, in Upper Egypt, Tiy was the daughter of Yuya and Thuya, two well-known senior officials who had the immense privilege of being buried in the Valley of the Kings. The burial furniture from the tomb of Yuya and Thuya, 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 Tiy who died prematurely—were discovered in the tomb of the parents of Tiy, whose family was in the king’s entourage. Queen Nefertiti, Akhenaton’s wife, and the vizier and king Ay, Tutankhamun’s successor, probably both originated from Akhmīm and may have been related to Tiy; these three figures attest to the importance of this town in Upper Egypt for the royal family at the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty.
There are many representations of Queen Tiy dating from the reign of Amenhotep III: she is often represented at the feet of the gigantic seated statues of her husband, helping him rule Egypt by fulfilling her role as a wife and mother. Like all the Egyptian queens, Tiy 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 upheld by the kings of Egypt.
Queen Tiy also played a diplomatic role, and continued to do so during her son’s reign: she is indeed mentioned in the diplomatic correspondence known as the Amarna Letters, which was discovered at Tell el-Amarna, Akhenaton’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 Akhenaton and the rulers of the great powers in the Orient. Having survived her husband, Tiy was summoned as a witness to the commitments made by Amenhotep III to the rulers who corresponded with his son and successor, Akhenaton.
Tiy 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, undoubtedly 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. Later, in the Twenty-First Dynasty, Tiy’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.
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