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Dazzling Nebmaatre: Queen Tiye, the Matchless Matriarch—Part II

Dazzling Nebmaatre: Queen Tiye, the Matchless Matriarch—Part II

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In March, 1898 within a dark side chamber of Amenhotep II's tomb (KV35) the famed French Egyptologist, Victor Loret gazed upon the face of a severely damaged mummy of an ancient woman, which to him exuded “a noble and majestic seriousness”. This lady had guided her son, Akhenaten – the first monotheist in history – when he became pharaoh; and had gifted that most tender of all mementos – an auburn lock of her hair – to her grandson, Tutankhamun. One of the foremost women of her time who was an able companion to her illustrious husband Amenhotep III, the matchless matriarch Queen Tiye was a formidable leader in her own right.

Head of a statuette of Queen Tiye, wearing a double-feathered crown, made of yew wood with silver, gold and glass. Neues Museum, Berlin.

Head of a statuette of Queen Tiye, wearing a double-feathered crown, made of yew wood with silver, gold and glass. Neues Museum, Berlin. (Photo: Heidi Kontkanen)

ALL THE PHARAOH’S WIVES

Amenhotep III married many women during his lifetime and lorded over a large harem filled with foreign princesses and concubines. Gilukhepa, daughter of King Shuttarna II of Mitanni was one of the first attested foreign princesses to marry the king in his Regnal Year 10. When she arrived bearing great treasures and an entourage of 317 ladies-in-waiting, the pharaoh exclaimed: “It's a marvel!”

Detail from a sandstone block fragment from the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III depicts Princess Sitamun wearing a vulture headdress and holding a floral scepter. Petrie Museum, London.

Detail from a sandstone block fragment from the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III depicts Princess Sitamun wearing a vulture headdress and holding a floral scepter. Petrie Museum, London. (Photo: Heidi Kontkanen)

During his first Heb Sed festival to commemorate 30 years on the throne, Amenhotep elevated his eldest daughter Sitamun as Great Royal Wife at Malqata palace. Her jar-labels in this location, where she was given her own quarters, outnumber those that mention her mother. Sitamun is, however, best known for an exquisitely crafted chair found in the tomb of her grandparents, Yuya and Tjuya. The sovereign married yet another daughter of his, Iset, during the Heb Sed celebrations to mark Year 34 of his reign. Nebetnehat, Henut, and possibly a daughter, Henutaneb, were some of his other wives.

The richly decorated wooden chair or “throne” of Princess Sitamun that was found in the tomb of her grandparents, Yuya and Tjuya. Egyptian Museum, Cairo.

The richly decorated wooden chair or “throne” of Princess Sitamun that was found in the tomb of her grandparents, Yuya and Tjuya. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. (Photo: Heidi Kontkanen)

After Gilukhepa disappeared from the records, another Mitannian princess, Tadukhepa a daughter of Tushratta, son of Shuttarna II, replaced her. Nicholas Reeves opines: “Tadukhepa... who followed in Gilukhepa's footsteps before Year 36 was inherited by the son, Amenhotep IV.” Joyce Tyldesley too supports this view. If true, was this princess known as Kiya or Nefertiti in her Egyptian avatar? Aidan Dodson and Dyan Hilton tentatively identify Tadukhepa with Kiya—opinion, however, remains divided in the matter.

Who was the mysterious Tadukhepa? A canopic jar head, purportedly of Kiya, from KV55 and (right) an unfinished sculpture of Nefertiti from the Amarna workshop of the royal artist Thutmose. Egyptian Museum, Cairo.

Who was the mysterious Tadukhepa? A canopic jar head, purportedly of Kiya, from KV55 and (right) an unfinished sculpture of Nefertiti from the Amarna workshop of the royal artist Thutmose. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. (Photo: Heidi Kontkanen)

Shrewd as ever, Amenhotep stubbornly refused to give his daughters in marriage to kings of neighboring countries. Lamenting the dismissal of numerous requests in this regard, and repeating the pharaoh’s words, the frustrated Babylonian King, Kadashman-Enlil I wrote: “From time immemorial, no daughter of the king of Egy[pt] is given to anyone.” Amenhotep's neglect of these pleas arose out of the need to prevent any possible claim upon the throne through wedlock with an Egyptian princess.

Without a shadow of doubt, Queen Tiye (ca. 1398 BC – 1338 BC) whom the Sun King wedded when he ascended the throne as a 12-year-old, was the jewel in his crown.

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Top Image: Deriv; Bust of Tiye ( CC BY-SA 4.0 ) and elaborate box with Cartouche of Amenhotep III ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

By Anand Balaji

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