Face Reconstruction of Queen Tiye (1398-1338 BC), based on her Mummy, found at the Tomb of Amenhotep II (KV35) in 1898.

Face Reconstruction of Queen Tiye (1398-1338 BC), based on her Mummy, found at the Tomb of Amenhotep II (KV35) in 1898. Now preserved at (The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo).

Tiye (Tye) was the Great Royal Wife of Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep III (r. 1391-1353 BC), mother of Pharaoh Akhenaten (r. 1353-1336 BC) and grandmother of Tutankhamun (1341-1323 BC) ; her parents were Yuya and Thuya.

Mainstream scholars reject the notion that Egypt was a white or black civilization; they maintain that, despite the phenotypic diversity of Ancient and present-day Egyptians, applying modern notions of black or white races to ancient Egypt is anachronistic.

In addition, scholars reject the notion, implicit in the notion of a black or white Egypt hypothesis, that Ancient Egypt was racially homogeneous; instead, skin color varied between the peoples of Lower Egypt, Upper Egypt, and Nubia, who in various eras rose to power in Ancient Egypt.

Moreover, “Most scholars believe that Egyptians in antiquity looked pretty much as they look today, with a gradation of darker shades toward the Sudan”. Within Egyptian history, despite multiple foreign invasions, the demographics were not shifted by large migrations.

Mummy of Queen Tiye

The mummy of Queen Tiye was found within the second side chamber of the tomb of Amenhotep II. Found in 1898 by Victor Loret, it was discovered that Amenhotep II’s tomb had later been used by the Ancient Egyptian priesthood as a storage for many royal mummies spanning both the 18th and 19th Dynasties.

Tiye is originally thought by some Egyptologists to have been or “supposed to have been” buried in her son’s new capital of Akhetaten (modern Tel el-Amarna), with the presumption that the body of the Queen and other royals of her family were perhaps moved once her son’s new capital collapsed after his death.

Mummy of Queen Tiye

Then there is the theory that Tiye was to be buried within the tomb of her husband Amenhotep III. There is no ultimate conclusion at the present.

Separate from the other mummies within the first side chamber of KV35; the body of the Queen was found within the second side chamber alongside the mummy of a young female (known as The Younger Lady), and an adolescent boy laying between them both.

Some of the mummies found within the other cache of KV35 have been found reburied in sarcophagi not their own, and some had their identities written upon the rewrapped linens fresh for reburial and identification.

Unfortunately, all three; Tiye, The Younger Lady and the Adolescent Boy, were found nude upon their modern discovery and were simply draped in unwrapped linens. This could be due to the reburial practices being lacklustre for the trio or more than likely tomb robberies, or perhaps both combined.

The boy is sadly still unidentified to this present day (April 2023). His youth is obvious as he was noticeably smaller than the two adult females and interestingly he has a bald head with one section of long hair (brown wavy tresses).

This distinguishable way of shaving the head was typical of the ancient Egyptian style for children and adolescents, dubbed by Egyptologists as the ‘side lock of youth’ and can be seen in many reliefs and statuettes across the entire Dynastic age.

There are at least two possible suspects for his identity, one being the young Prince Thutmose. Prince Thutmose was the eldest son of Queen Tiye and Amenhotep III who died as a youth and thus, his brother Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) became heir and king of Egypt.

Thutmose is most famous for his adoration for his pet cat Ta-Miu, leading to him having a personal sarcophagus built for the ‘little mewer’ he loved so much.

Analysis of two female mummies, however, have resulted in an absolute conclusion: the two females found within the chamber are unquestionably mother and daughter.

Until many decades after the discovery of KV35, the mummy of Queen Tiye was simply known as The Elder Lady. Her identity was of vast interest to many Egyptologists; as here was the body of a small woman, with a very regal posture (the raised royal arm).

Most notable; her serene delicate face adorned with natural long wavy reddish-brown hair that even in death looks luscious and healthy some 3000+ years later.

Tiye on display at the Cairo Museum, before being transferred to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Fustat during the Golden Pharaoh’s Parade, 2021.

Tiye’s luscious and lengthy hair is a very distinguishable feature of her mummy, and it was this very hair that certified her identity, as rather amazingly, in his tomb, within one of four miniature sarcophagi marked with the Queen’s name, King Tutankhamun, was buried with a lock of his grandmother’s hair. (Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 60698)

Electron probe analysis of the hair in the 1970s concluded a match between the hair within Tutankhamun’s tomb and the hair upon the mummy of Queen Tiye.

More recent and more modern investigation in the 2010s using DNA analysis conducted by Dr. Zahar Saleem tells us with no uncertainty that the electron probe analysis was correct, and the hair is a total match.

What’s more is, the mummy who for so long was simply known as The Elder Lady was confirmed through modern DNA analysis also conducted by Dr. Zahar Saleem, to definitely be the daughter of Yuya and Thuya. This DNA match means, the identity of the mummy known for decades as The Elder Lady is absolutely Queen Tiye.

The mummy of Queen Tiye photographed in 1912, back when she was simply known as the “Elder Lady”. It is thought the damage to her torso was made by ancient tomb robbers. This image was published in 1912, in the book, “The Royal Mummies” (Plate XCVII)”, by Grafton Elliot Smith (1871-1937).

Queen Tiye’s body was mummified in the traditional ways of her time, and she is well-preserved despite postmortem injuries likely occurring during tomb robberies. The Queen’s left arm is raised in the royal pose across her chest, and her hand is firmly rigid in a clasping grip, as if she were to be holding something.

Sadly, what she was buried clutching is unfortunately missing and was more than likely pulled from her in antiquity. Tiye’s right arm is still attached to her body, laying alongside her and hovering slightly over her lower torso, her middle finger is absent.

Queen Tiye’s teeth have moderate ware and are in good shape for her age range, which is approximately somewhere between 40–50 years.

Fascinatingly, only one wisdom tooth remains embedded within the gum socket, and holes for the other three are present, indicating that they were removed in her lifetime, giving us an amazing insight into Ancient Egypt dentistry of her time period; the removal of wisdom teeth!

Mummy of Queen Tiye

Unfortunately, the name of Tiye’s daughter is unknowable at the present and she may never be officially identified.

Tiye and Amenhotep III had six daughters together, and The Younger Lady is definitely the daughter of both, and so, until more tests and Egyptological discoveries or cultivated theories arise, it is simply just educated guesswork when it comes to giving The Younger Lady her identity.

But despite her name currently being lost to us, DNA testing proved The Younger Lady is the mother of Tutankhamun, and the sister of the mummy (skeletonized) known as KV55 who may or may not be king Akhenaten (son of Tiye and Amenhotep III).

Tiye’s mummy measures at 145 cm in length, making her body 4 ft 7 inches tall, however, due to disarticulated feet and shrinkage in death, it is safe to say she would have been taller in life, estimations put her living height at approximately 4 ft 11 inches.

As previously mentioned, modern analysis puts her age of death between 40–50 years of age, but no cause of death is knowable at this time.

A statue of Queen Tiye (Great Royal Wife of Amenhotep III) is paraded within a procession, likely being taken to the Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III (Kom el-Hettân). A statue of Amenhotep III is also seen in the procession, but not pictured here.
New Kingdom, 19th-20th Dynasty, c. 1295–1170 B.C.
Tomb of Ameneminet (TT277), Qurnet-Murai, Theban necropolis
Photograph by manna4u

Sources: Hawass, Z.A., Saleem, S.N. and D’Auria, S. (2018) Scanning the pharaohs: CT imaging of the New Kingdom Royal Mummies. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press.

Written by Catherine Christina Yule (Egyptology Certificate/Diploma student at Manchester University)

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