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

Pharaoh Amenhotep III & Queen Tiye cont. 

People To Know
Princess / Queen Sitamen. Usually thought to be a daughter of Amenhotep III and Tiye. Her father elevated her to Great Royal Wife during the heb-sed festival in year 30. The famous Amenhotep son of Hapu became the Steward of her Estates.
He maintained the honor of Egyptian women in refusing requests to send them as wives to foreign rulers, claiming that no daughter of Egypt had ever been sent to a foreign land and would not be sent under his reign. In all these ways, Amenhotep III emulated or improved upon his father’s policies and in religion he did likewise. Amenhotep III was an ardent supporter of the ancient religion of Egypt and, in this, found a perfect outlet for his greatest interest: the arts and building projects.


The historian Durant describes the grandeur of Amenhotep’s monuments in writing, “Two giants [sit] in stone, representing the most luxurious of Egypt’s monarchs, Amenhotep III. Each is seventy feet high, weighs seven hundred tons, and is carved out of a single rock” (141). Amenhotep III’s vision was of an Egypt so splendid that it would leave one in awe, and the over 250 buildings, temples, statuary, and stele he ordered constructed attest to his success in this. The statues which Durant mentions are today known as the Colossi of Memnon and are the only pieces left of Amenhotep III’s mortuary temple. Their immense size and intricacy of detail, however, suggest that the temple itself – and his other building projects no longer extant – were equally or even more impressive.

In year 29 Amenhotep moves the court to the palace at Malkata inThebes. This magnificent palace complex was erected by Amenhotep III on the westbank of Thebes for the celebrations of his sed-festivals. The site was first discovered by George Daressy in 1888. It is known for its brightly colored decorations. Malkata Palace was further excavated by a team from Waseda University, Tokyo.

The palace included a temple of Amen, an audience pavilion, servants' and officials' quarters, more living quarters, and 4 palace areas: The North palace which were Queen/Princess Sitamen's quarters; A Middle palace; The palace of the King with adjacent audience chambers, and rooms identified as part of the harem; The south palace which were Queen Tiy's apartments. Half a kilometer to the south of the main palace complex they have found a stadium for chariot racing or exercise. It had a straight course of over 400 meters long. It is also believed that there was a Maru (sunshade) on the northern side of the Malqata palace. It was built on an east-west axis and it would have included pools, tanks, kiosks and flower-beds in which Amen as the sun-god could be seen from rising to setting every day.

Bunson writes that “the vast complex was called `The House of Nebma’atre as Aten’s Splendour.’ The resort boasted a lake over a mile long, which appears to have been created in only 15 days by advanced hydraulic sluicing techniques... Amenhotep even had a pleasure bark, dedicated to the god Aten, built for outings on the lake” (18). He frequently took these outings in the company of Tiye and, it seems, she was often his closest companion in both public and private life. Tiye, in fact, operated on a nearly equal, or completely equal, status to her husband and is often depicted in statuary as the same height as he is, symbolizing the harmony and equality of their relationship. While Amenhotep was busy with his building projects, Tiye took care of the affairs of state and running the palace complex at Malkata.

That she was kept quite busy with these tasks is evident in letters from foreign rulers as well as the number of buildings constructed during Amenhotep III’s reign. In addition to those already mentioned, he had 600 statues of the goddess Sekhmet erected around the Temple of Mut, south of Karnak, renovated the existing Temple at Karnak, built temples to Amun, erected statuary depicting Amun, raised stele which recorded his accomplishments, set the granite lions in front of the Temple of Soleb in Nubia, and decorated walls and monuments with scenes depicting his exploits and the pleasure the gods had in him. In his first year of rule, he had new limestone quarries dug in the region of Tura and, throughout his reign, he depleted them. Images of the pharaoh and his gods spread across the plains and valleys of Egypt and cities were refurbished. Roads were improved and travel became easier. The ease of travel helped merchants get their wares to market more quickly and this, of course, boosted the economy. With revenue already coming in from vassal states, Egypt became increasingly wealthy under Amenhotep III’s reign. The populace was content and the power of the throne was stable except for the threat from the priests of the cult of the god Amun.

Amenhotep III
Portrait study of Amenhotep III



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