Queen Tiye was born in c. 1398 BC as the daughter of a wealthy landowner, Yuya and noblewoman, Thuya. She is known, for sure, to at least have one brother Anen. It is believed by many that she had another brother by the name of Ay.
She would go on to be the mother of King Akhenaten, which means she was the beloved grandmother of the famous Tutankhamun, more commonly known as King Tut. Exact specifics of her life, like many during this time, are not known.
Egyptologists have hypothesised that her father was a foreigner due to their discoveries of his mummy and the fact that his name was spelt in many different forms. Historians have also attributed her unconventional religious views, as well as strong political views, to her father’s foreign origin.
Tiye, whose name was also spelt Taia, Tiy and Tiyi, would go on to become the wife of Amenhotep III – the ninth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. They married by the second year of his reign when she was around the age of 11 or 12. They were known to have at least seven to nine children: Sitamun, Isis, Henuttaneb, Nebetah, Crown Prince Thutmose, Akhenaten, Smenkhkare, “The Younger Lady” (the mummy has been discovered but so far no name) and Baketaten. How many of these survived their childhoods is not clear.
Remarkably, Tiye figured so prominently in the life of her husband – more so than any other queen consort as a trusted confidant and friend. American Egyptologists David O’Connor and Eric Cline have stated, “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 jewellery, 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—emphasise her role as the king’s divine, as well as earthly partner.”
Queen Tiye was so well-liked in foreign courts that she was able to be very persuasive and was well respected. Many were willing to deal with issues directly through her. As a result of this, she was the first Egyptian queen to have her name recorded in ancient records. She was also known to be a prominent figure in the reign of her son.
Amenhotep III adored Tiye and devoted numerous shrines across Egypt to her. Additionally, he had a temple dedicated to her, as well as an artificial lake built for her. The temple was constructed in Nubia (current-day northern Sudan) in the Sedeinga pyramids where she was worshipped as the goddess Hathor-Tefnut.
This was all done prior to Tiye’s death, as she is believed to have outlived her husband by close to 12 years. She died, around the age of 50, during her son’s reign in 1338 BC in what many believe was during an epidemic. Her death marked the beginning of the end of her son’s reign as he began to lose power.
Initially, she was buried in Akhenaten’s royal tomb at Amarna. Her remains were discovered in 1898. Her remains, unwrapped and severely damaged, were found alongside that of a young woman and a young boy. Egyptologists named her “The Elder Lady” while giving the younger woman the name of “The Younger Lady.” They later agreed that “The Elder Lady” (with supposedly long beautiful hair) was, in fact, Queen Tiye. DNA analysis formally confirmed it in 2010.
Queen Tiye’s mummy now is in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt.