Tutankhamun’s Family – Part I



Tutankhamun’s Family – Part I

Amenhotep III, Tutankhamun’s Grandfather

On the western bank of Thebes the site of Kom el-Hettan, the funerary temple that Amenhotep III built in the fourteenth century BCE, attests to the reign of Tutankhamun’s grandfather— known as the golden age of Egypt. Behind the huge Colossi of Memnon stood the largest temple built in the New Kingdom, full of royal and divine statues.

The son and successor of Thutmose IV, Amenhotep III—like his grandson Tutankhamun—ascended the throne at a very young age. Early in his reign he married Tiy, who came from Akhmīm in the south of Egypt; she was the favoured wife of Amenhotep III during his thirty-eight-year reign. The king’s reign was a period of peaceful prosperity, which Egypt did not experience again until the reign of Ramses II, and which resulted in unprecedented artistic development.

Monuments glorifying Amenhotep III, his reign, and the gods were built all over Egypt. Amongst the most famous, in addition to the funerary temple at Kom el-Hettan and its famous colossi, is the Luxor Temple, which was completed by Ramses II.

Amenhotep III, like the kings who preceded and succeeded him, also implemented a building programme at Karnak, where he embellished the temple of Amon-Re. In Nubia, the temples of Soleb and Sedeinga, devoted respectively to Amenhotep III, who was deified during his lifetime, are monumental attestations to Egypt’s presence to the south of its borders. The two temples may have inspired those of Ramses II and his wife Nefertari at Abu Simbel, which were built decades later.

Amongst the king’s most prominent high officials and courtiers, a certain Amenhotep, the son of Hapu, who was very close to Amenhotep III, made his name in the history books. As architect and ‘director of all the king’s works’, Amenhotep, son of Hapu, built the Colossi of Memnon and probably directed the construction of Amenhotep III’s funerary temple. He was such an important figure that Amenhotep III granted him the right to construct his own small funerary temple on the western bank of Thebes, an honour that was usually only reserved for the pharaohs. It is probably for these reasons that, centuries later, during the Late Period and even during the Ptolemaic era, Amenhotep, son of Hapu, was deified along with other great figures in Pharaonic history, such as Imhotep, the architect of the step pyramid built at the necropolis of Ṣaqqārah.

Under Amenhotep III, statuary also diversified. New types appeared, in both the royal and private spheres, and there was a marked taste for refined details in clothing, wigs, and finery. Crockery and luxury toiletry items, such as the famous cosmetic spoons in the form of female swimmers, in carved wood, were used by the living and accompanied the deceased in their tombs. Taking advantage of the lasting peace with the neighbouring countries in the Near East, consolidated through marriages with foreign princesses, Amenhotep III’s Egypt increased trade and imported rare products, which were transported along the coast of the Levant.

The causes of Amenhotep III’s death are not known. It is possible that the king died after a long illness, which may explain his deep devotion to the lioness goddess Sekhmet; hundreds of granite statues of the goddess were found in the Theban area, and she was known for her great healing power. Amenhotep III was buried in a valley—the Western Valley—not far from the Valley of the Kings. Queen Tiy survived her husband and lived to see one of her sons ascend the throne—the young Amenhotep IV (later known as Akhenaten), Tutankhamun’s father.

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