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The Standing on the Shoulders of Giants "Teach & Learn" Black History Curriculum​​

Specially designed for Parents, Teachers, Homeschool, or Independent Study, grades 5+


Unit 1: Ancient Africa - The Cradle of Civilization
(200,000 B.C. - 476 B.C.)

Unit 1: Class 11: Ancient Kemet (Egypt): The New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period (1550 B.C. – 712 B.C.) Part 2

Queen Tiye

Queen Tiye, Royal Wife of Amenhotep III, mother of Akhenaten, grandmother of King Tutankhamen, "King Tut." Queen Tiye was from Upper Egypt. Images of her and her role in ancient Egyptian history is often omitted, precisely because she is unmistakably Black and African. She single-handedly debunks the theory that ancient Kemet(Egypt) was a non-black, non-African society. Many Egyptologists and scholars initially tried to claim that she was born in Nubia, and was not of "Egyptian blood." 
Tiye (also known as Tiy, 1398-1338 BCE) was a queen of Egypt of the 18th dynasty, wife of the pharaoh Amenhotep III, mother of Akhenaten, and grandmother of both Tutankhamun and Ankhsenamun. She exerted an enormous influence at the courts of both her husband and son and is known to have communicated directly with rulers of foreign nations. The Amarna letters also show that she was highly regarded by these rulers, especially during the reign of her son. Although she believed in the traditional polytheistic religion of Egypt, she supported Akhenaten’s monotheistic reforms, most likely because she recognized them as important political stratagems to increase the power of the throne at the expense of the priesthood of Amun. She died in her early sixties and was buried in the Valley of the Kings. Her mummy has positively been identified as that known as the 'Elder Lady’, and a lock of her hair, possibly a keepsake of the young king’s, was found in Tutankhamun’s tomb.


According to some scholars (Margaret Bunson, among them), Tiye's father was Yuya, a provincial priest from Akhmin, and her mother was Tjuya, a servant of the queen mother, Mutemwiya. Other sources, however, claim Yuya was Master of the Horse of the royal court and Tjuya a priestess. Tiye grew up in the royal palace but was not a royal herself. She would have been a part of the court life if her mother had been the queen's servant but it seems more likely that both her parents enjoyed a more elevated status. She had one brother, Amen, who later took over his father’s position and eventually became high priest of the cult of Akhmin, and she may have had another brother, Ay, who would later rule Egypt (though this is disputed). Her parents' names, some claim, are not Egyptian, and it has been suggested that they were Nubian. Scholars who have noted Tiye’s unusual role in the affairs of state point to the Nubian custom of female rulers. The Candaces of Nubia were all strong female rulers, and so some scholars speculate that perhaps Tiye felt free to wield power in the same way as a male ruler because of her upbringing and heritage.

This theory is disputed, however, as it has been pointed out that women in ancient Egypt had more rights and were held in higher regard than in most other ancient cultures and, therefore, there is no need to seek a reason in neighboring Nubia for Tiye’s behavior. The counter-argument, however, is that this latter objection does not account for the Nubian-sounding names of Tiye’s parents. The Egyptologist Zahi Hawass claims that the names are not Nubian and that “some scholars have speculated that Yuya and Tjuya were of foreign birth, but there is no good evidence to substantiate this theory” (28). He also contradicts Bunson by claiming that Tiye’s parents were associated with the clergy from the Egyptian region of Akhmin, serving the gods Amun, Hathor, and Min; Yuya was Master of the Horse and Tjuya was not a servant of the royal house but a priestess of considerable power. If Hawass is correct, this would explain how Queen Tiye came to wield as much power as she did -- far more than any other queen of Egypt before her (as Hatshepsut was pharaoh, not queen, she cannot be considered in this equation).The historian Margaret Bunsone note that, "Tiye probably married Amenhotep while he was a prince. She is believed to have been only 11 or 12 at the time” (265). When Amenhotep III came to the throne, Tiye ascended with him.


From the beginning of her husband’s reign, Tiye was a significant force at court. Bunson writes that she was “intelligent and diligent, the first queen of Egypt to have her name on official acts, even on the announcement of the king’s marriage to a foreign princess” (265). Hawass agrees, stating, “Tiye is featured prominently on her husband’s monuments, and seems to have borne more real power than the queens who came before her. Her name is even written in a cartouche, like that of the king” (28). Amenhotep III’s reign was luxurious, and Egypt was the most powerful and richest nation in the region, if not the world, and so the king was free to expend this wealth in building a grand palace for his queen at Malkata, across the river from Thebes and the old palace of his father.

Tiye and her husband lived at Malkata where she gave birth to six children: two sons, Thutmosis, Amenhotep IV; and four daughters, Sitamen, Henuttaneb, Isis, Nebetah, and Baketaten. Thutmosis died early in life, and Amenhotep IV (later known as Akhenaten) was pronounced heir to the throne. Images from the time show Tiye with her family enjoying domestic life, but she was equally involved in affairs of state. 

People To Know
Detail of the funerary Mask of Yuya from Tomb of Yuya and Tuya, parents of Queen Tiye. Although they were not of royal blood, they were nobles. Yuya was Master of the Horse of the royal court and Tjuya a priestess.



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