Statue of Amenhotep III & Tiye
Limestone; H. 7 m, W. 4.4 m;
18th Dynasty, reign of Amenhotep III, 1410 – 1372 BC;
Medinet Habu; Ground floor, gallery 18;
One of my favorite discoveries about Queen Tiy was how she was portrayed in sculpture. It was common for Pharaohs to be depicted as giants compared to their queens, but Tiy was often portrayed at the same scale as Amenhotep--an equal to him. Their daughter is shown between them, her small size an example of how earlier queens were depicted compared to the pharaoh.
Amenhotep went against tradition to praise and lift Tiy above the normal acclaim given a queen. I adored that about him, but it also deepened the mystery for me. Why would he go against tradition and choose someone not of royal birth to be his wife? Of course, being the romantic that I am, I couldn't help but wonder if love was a deciding factor.
This statue was a major influence in my decision to write about Tiy. With her arm shown behind Amenhotep's back in a supportive and protective way, it became natural for me to give Tiy opportunities to protect Amenhotep in some ways. Hence the reason she became his "Desert Guardian" in the book.
The incomplete statuette above was the inspiration for Tiy's wedding dress. It represents Queen Tiy adorned with royal emblems: a vulture skin partly covering her long wig and feathers wrapping around her body. To me, the feathers looked almost like wings that she could unfurl behind her, as if she was Nekhbet, the vulture goddess, herself.
Tiy was portrayed as many goddesses, all of which had roles of protecting the king, but none more than Nekhbet, the guardian vulture goddess and protector of Pharaoh. She was often depicted hovering above the pharaoh in battle offering him protection and threatening his enemies. Nekhbet was the personification of the White Crown of Upper Egypt, and by extension, the patron goddess of Upper Egypt. Described as “beloved of Nekhbet,” Tiy was associated with the goddess who helped the sun god as he traveled through the sky, in the same way that she helped Amenhotep through his reign. Nekhbet’s protective wings appear in dozens of painted plaster fragments found above Amenhotep’s bedchamber and inside his sarcophagus lid, watching over him when he was in the most vulnerable situations—in sleep and, ultimately, in death.
Scarab Commemorating the Marriage of Amenhotep III to Tiy
Steatite, L. 8.9 cm (3 1/2 in); w. 6.1 cm (2 3/8 in)
The Metropolitan Museum, not on display
Large commemorative scarabs were issued by Amenhotep to celebrate milestones in his reign. About 200 are known, and all are inscribed with texts on their undersides, recording significant events in the life of the king and queen. Scarabs such as these were awarded by Amenhotep to favored courtiers at home and abroad.
Tiy was not of royal birth, yet Amenhotep honored their marriage with the scarab that announced her name and, most unusually, the names of her parents. Copies of the scarab were distributed throughout Egypt, rather like a modern fax. Tiy could not have been exalted more highly.
Live Horus: Mighty bull appearing in truth; Two Ladies: Who establishes laws; who pacifies the Two Lands; Gold Horus: Great of strength, who smites the Asiatics; The king of Upper and Lower Egypt, lord of the Two Lands: Nebmaatre; Son of Re: Amenophis, ruler of Thebes, given life; and the great king's wife Tiy (may she live!). The name of her father is Yuya, the name of her mother is Tuya. She is the wife of a mighty king, his southern boundary reaches to Karoy (Nubia), and the northern to Naharina (Mitanni).
Wild Bull Hunt Scarab of Amenhotep III
Glazed Steatite, H 6.56cm x W 2.46cm
The Cleveland Museum of Art
Amenhotep commissioned the bull hunt scarab early in his reign, probably to establish his credentials as a new ruler. He glorified a hunting extravaganza to showcase his sportsman skills. Most of his later scarabs focus on the lion hunts that he accomplished through year ten of his reign. Unlike the lion hunt scarabs, the wild bull hunt records the king's accomplishment from horseback or chariot. Right in the center of the scarab a single horse hieroglyph leaves it open for speculation exactly which vehicle the king used.
Amenhotep was a young teenager in the second year of his rein when the hunting event took place. He was already married to Tiy. Word came to the pharaoh that a herd of wild cattle had been spotted in the district of Shetep . His majesty traveled by boat down the Nile during the night. Upon the king's orders, the townspeople herded the cattle into a stockade and counted 170 head. The king killed 56 of the cattle that day. After four days' rest for the horses, the king mounted up and slew 40 more, making his total tally 96 head of cattle slain.