Mummy Monday: Amenhotep II

Why don’t we talk about another famous royal, whose tomb we have mentioned several times? This week let’s talk about Amenhotep II, the seventh pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty.


Amenhotep II was born to Pharaoh Thutmose III and his minor wife Merytre-Hatshepsut. He was born and raised in Memphis, instead of the traditional capital of Thebes. As a prince, he oversaw the deliveries of wood sent to the dockyard of Peru-nufe in Memphis. He was also made a Setem, which is a high priest over Lower Egypt. Amenhotep II left many inscriptions touting his athletic skills while he was the leader of the army. He claims to have been able to shoot an arrow through a copper target one palm thick and to row his ship faster and farther than two hundred members of the navy could row theirs.

Now Amenhotep II was not the firstborn of the Thutmose III. He had an elder brother named Amenemhat, but he and his mother died between Years 24 and 35 of Thutmose III, which prompted the king to remarry and have more children.

Life as Pharaoh

Amenhotep II rose to the throne around 1427 BCE, on the first day of the fourth month of Akhet. This was days after his father’s death, which indicates that they might have been in a coregency together. He was probably around 18 years old when he became the pharaoh as indicated by his great Sphinx stela,

“Now his Majesty appeared as king as a fine youth after he had become ‘well developed’, and had completed eighteen years in his strength and bravery.”

He married a woman named Tiaa, with whom he had as many as ten sons and one daughter. His eldest son and heir was Thutmose IV. Princes Amenhotep, Webensenu, Amenemopet, and Nejem are clearly attested, which Princes Amenemhat, Kaemwaset, Aakheperure, and Princess Iaret are possible children.

Besides Tiaa, Amenhotep II did not record the names of his other wives. Some Egyptologists have theorized that he felt the women had become too powerful under titles such as God’s Wife of Amun. They point at the fact that he participated in his father’s removal of Hatshepsut’s name from her monuments and the destruction of her image. Amenhotep II may have continued to destroy her images in his co-regency with his father, but not during his reign. But he may have still harbored his father’s concern that another woman would sit on the throne.

Amenhotep II took his first campaign in his 3rd regnal year, where he was attacked by the host of Qatna, but he did emerge victoriously. He also apparently killed 7 rebel princes at Kadesh, who were then hung upside down on the prow of his ship and then hung on the walls of Thebes and Napata.


Amenhotep II died after 26 of his reign. Although the dates of his reign indicate that he was about 52 when he died, his mummy reveals that he was closer to 40 years old.

He constructed a tomb in the Valley of the Kings KV35, which I will talk about below, and a mortuary temple at the edge of the cultivation in the Theban necropolis, but it was destroyed in ancient times.


I know we have talked about KV35 several times already, but I will mainly focus on the tomb as it was when Amenhotep II had it built.

The tomb is in the shape of a dog’s leg, which means it turns at a 90-degree angle. This is a typical layout of tombs of the 18th dynasty. Upon entering the tomb, there are two sets of stairways and two corridors before the well shaft. This is decorated with images of the King performing ritual acts before Osiris, Anubis, and Hathor.

After the tomb takes a 90-degree angle, there is a pillared vestibule and another wide flight of stairs. There is one small annex off of this first vestibule. This leads to a third corridor and a large six-pillared room. The burial chamber is just past the last set of pillars.

The burial chamber is a rectangular shape and divided into upper and lower pillared sections. The lower part held the sarcophagus of the king which was made of red quartzite. There are also four annexes off of this chamber. The walls of the burial chamber are decorated with a frieze and scenes from the Amduat, which is one of the many different Egyptian funerary texts. The pillars are decorated with the king before Osiris, Anubis, and Hathor. As with many tombs from this period, the ceiling is blue and covered in stars.

Although the tomb had been plundered in antiquity and then reopened to place the cache, some items from Amenhotep II’s burial were still found. These included a papyrus with extracts from the Book of Caverns, emblems in wood, a broken Osiris bed, at least one large wooden funerary couch, a large wooden figure of a serpent, a large wooden Sekhmet figure for the king’s son Webensenu, a life-size cow head statues, faience vases, a resin-coated wooden panther, 30 empty storage jars, and many miniature wooden coffins.

As we know, KV35 was used as a mummy cache in the Third Intermediate Period for many of the pharaohs of the New Kingdom. Those found in the tomb are listed below:

  • Queen Tiye (The Elder Lady)
  • A prince, either Webensenu or Thutmose
  • The Younger Lady
  • Unknown woman D
  • Two skulls were found in the well and an anonymous arm
  • The Mummy on the Boat

These mummies were discovered in March of 1898 by Victor Loret.


When the mummy was originally found, there were garlands of mimosa flowers around his neck. The mummy had also been rewrapped and given a shroud by the priests of the Third Intermediate Period. Unfortunately, in 1901 when the tomb was plundered by modern robbers, the mummy was taken from the tomb and exposed from the waist up. Howard Carter was able to track down the robbers, using, among other clues, the imprints of their feet in the dust of the tomb. The mummy was then returned to the sarcophagus. Up until 1928, the mummy of Amenhotep II was still found in the quartzite sarcophagus before it was transferred to the Cairo Museum (CG61069).

After the 1901 plundering, the mummy was severely damaged. The head and right leg were separated from the body, the front abdominal wall was missing, and the spine was broken as well. There were also distinctive patterns of ossification along the vertebrae, which is a degenerative type of arthritis seen in people aged 60 years and older. His skin was covered in raised nodules, which were also found on the mummies of Thutmose II and Thutmose III. This could have been from disease or by a reaction of the embalming materials with the skin. Amenhotep II’s teeth were worn but in good condition.

He was probably 6 foot tall in life and he had graying hair and a bald spot on the back of his head.  There were impressions of jewelry found in the resin which had been used in the embalming process. Finally, there was a large bow, which was broken or cut in two was found with the mummy.



Head of Amenhotep II at the Brooklyn Museum – Wikimedia Commons (Keith Schengili-Roberts)

Head of Amenhotep II at the State Museum of Egyptian Art, Munich – Wikimedia Commons (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP (Glasg))

Head of Amenhotep II at the Louvre – Wikimedia Commons (Rama)

Stela from Elephantine, now on display at the Kunthistorisches Museum, Vienna, recording Amenhotep II’s successful campaign against Syria – Wikimedia Commons (Captmondo)

Amenhotep II shown at the Temple of Amada, Lake Nasser, Egypt – Wikimedia Commons (Dennis Jarvis)

Image of tomb, tomb plan, mummy –

Wooden cow head and image of sarcophagus –

Black and white photo of the sarcophagus –

Mummy –

Mummy and sarcophagus, and objects found in the tomb –

Pictures of the tomb –

Pictures of the tomb –

Women Crush Wednesday: Tiye

For this week’s Women Crush Wednesday we are going to talk about Amenhotep III’s Great Royal Wife, Tiye. She was quite influential during the rule of her husband and her son Akhenaten.

Her Life

Tiye was born sometimes around 1398 B.C.E. to Yuya and Tjuyu. Her father was a wealthy landowner from the Upper Egyptian town of Akhmin. He served as a priest, superintendent of oxen, and commander of the chariotry. It has been speculated that he may be of foreign origins because his name has various spellings and could be originally non-Egyptian. Her mother Tiuyu was involved in many religious cults as the singer of Hathor and chief entertainers of both Amun and Min. These titles suggest that she may have been part of the royal family in some way, but this is not clear. Tiye also had a brother named Anen, who was the second prophet of Amun. Pharaoh Ay, who was pharaoh after her grandson King Tutankhamun, may have also been her brother as he was also from Akhmin and he inherited most of the titles Yuya held while in the court of Amenhotep III.

Tiye was most likely married to Amenhotep III in the second year of his reign. She could have been either 11 or 12 when she married. Their marriage was a unique case as Egyptian pharaohs usually married their sisters or half-sisters to keep the power in the family. As Amenhotep III was born to a minor wife of Thutmose IV, he may have needed a stronger tie to a royal lineage, which is why some scholars think that Tjuyu may have been of royal blood.

In the 11th year of Amenhotep III’s reign, he released several commemorative scarabs, including one that has been dubbed the marriage scarab. Here he announced that she was elevated to Great Royal Wife, which meant that she technically had a higher rank than Amenhotep III’s mother. On these scarabs, her name is actually written within a cartouche, which was a long oval with one line on the side. These cartouches are usually only reserved for the king’s name. Here is the text on the back of the Marriage Scarab:

Scarab Commemorating the King’s Marriage to Queen Tiye, ca. 1390–1352 B.C. Egyptian, New Kingdom Glazed steatite; L. 8 cm (3 1/8 in.); W. 5.4 cm (2 1/8 in.); H. 2 cm (13/16 in.) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Helen Miller Gould, 1910 (10.130.1643)

“Year 11 The Living Horus Strong Bull Appearing in Truth. He of the Two Goddesses Establishing Laws, Pacifying the Two Lands. The Golden Horus, Great of Valour, Smiting the Asiatics. King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Lord of the Two Lands, Neb-Maat-Re  Son of Re, Amenhotep Ruler of Thebes, given life. The Great Royal Wife Tiye, may she live. The name of her father is Yuya, the name of her mother is Tuya. She is the wife of the mighty king whose southern boundary is as far as Karoy, whose northern is as far as Naharin.”

Her Children

She and Amenhotep III had several surviving children. Her eldest daughter Sitamun was elevated to the position of Great Royal Wife by her father around the 30th year of his reign. She had her own apartments in the royal city of Malqata, across the hall from her father. She also may have intended to be buried in Amenhotep III’s tomb, but it not clear if she was ever buried there. Another daughter Isis or Iset was also a Great Royal Wife of Amenhotep III. Two more daughters are known named Henuttaneb and Nebetah, although the latter may have been renamed Baketaten during her brother’s reign. Baketaten is frequently seen seated next to Tiye in Amarna reliefs so it is not clear if this was a daughter, granddaughter, or someone else. Finally, the “Younger Lady of KV35” who was found with the body of Tiye, has been identified through DNA to be the daughter of Amenhotep III and Tiye and the mother of King Tutankhamun. Presumably, the body is of one of the already known daughters, but as the body was not labeled, we may never know which daughter she was.

Tiye and Amenhotep III had at least two sons. Crown Prince Thutmose was a High Priest of Ptah before he predeceased his father. Their second son was originally known as Amenhotep IV. After his father’s death and when he took the throne, he changed his name to Akhenaten and moved the capital city to a new site in Middle Egypt, which was also called Akhenaten. Tiye and Amenhotep III may have had another son named Smenkhkare, who was the successor of Akhenaten, but this is just one of the many theories about the identity of Smenkhkare.

Famous Monuments and Depictions

Queen Tiye pictured as two sphinx at her temple in Segeinga, Nubia

Throughout his rule, Amenhotep III built various structures for his Queen Tiye. He devoted several of his shrines to her and also constructed a temple dedicated to her in Segeinga, Nubia. Here she was worshipped as the goddess Hathor Tefnut and she was also displayed as a sphinx. Her temple was the female counterpart to the larger temple of Amenhotep III.

Most importantly, Amenhotep III gifted her a pleasure lake at the city of Djaruka, which supposedly was near Akhmin. Her husband sent out another commemorative scarab detailing the lake. This lake may have been similar to the lake that was built at the royal city of Malqata. Here is a translation of the Pleasure Lake Scarab:

Pleasure Lake Scarab, Liverpool Museum, M12400

“Year 11 under the majesty of Horus: Strong bull, appearing in truth; two ladies: Who establishes laws and pacifies the two lands; Golden Horus: Great of Strength, smiter of the Asiatics; king of Upper and Lower Egypt, lord of the two lands, Nebmaatre; son of Re: Amenhotep, ruler of Thebes, given life; and the great royal wife Tiye, may she live. Her father’s name is Yuya; her mother’s name is Tuya. His majesty commanded the making of a lake for the great royal wife Tiye, may she live, in her town Djarukha. Its lengths is 3700 (cubits) and its width is 700 (cubits). (His majesty) celebrated the festival of opening the lake in the third month of inundation, day 16. His majesty was rowed in the royal barge Aten-nefru in it.”

Colossal Statue of Amenhotep III, Tiye and their daughters, Egyptian Museum, Cairo

There are a variety of statues of Tiye, but none is as impressive as the colossal statue of Amenhotep III and his wife in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (M610 & JE 33906). It originally stood in Medinet Habu. It is 23 feet or 7 meters tall and depicts the couple and three of their daughters. Interestingly, Tiye is pictured the same size as her husband, which is not typically done in Egyptian art. Usually, women are always portrayed slightly shorter than their husbands. No other Queen has ever figured so prominently in her husband’s lifetime. This emphasizes her role as the king’s divine and early partner.

Statue of Tiye and Amenhotep III, Louvre Museum, E 25493

This blue-green statue of Tiye used to include her husband, but that half has since been lost. It was made out of steatite and embellished with bright green enamel. The lower half of this statue was in the Louvre Museum (N2312) when it was stolen during the revolution of July 1830. It was then mysteriously returned to its place a few months later. Then in 1962, the upper part of this statue turned up on the art market and the Louvre purchased it to piece the two halves together (E25493).

But this bust is by far the most famous image of Queen Tiye. It was found in Medinet el Ghurab, which is an ancient site near the Faiyum Oasis. It is currently located at the Egyptian Museum in Berlin (AM21834 & AM1752). It is thought that this bust was created towards the end of the rule of her husband, as she is shown in advanced age. After her husband’s death, this piece may have been reworked. Using computer scan technology, Egyptologists have discovered that the Queen originally wore a silver headscarf with a gold uraeus. This headscarf was called a Khat headdress and was traditionally worn by the four funerary goddesses, Isis, Nephthys, Selket, and Neith. Then the piece was covered in several layers of linen and decorated with faience beads, a few of which are still preserved.

Computer rendering of the original design of the bust of Tiye
Reconstruction of the three different phases of the bust of Tiye

The crown which was added separately was actually lost within the Berlin Museum. This crown consists of a sun disc, cow horns, and a pair of features. This crown is typically worn by goddesses or deified kings. It seems that Akhenaten raised his mother, while she was still alive, into the realm of a goddess.

Her Power

This is a list of all of the titles that she held throughout her life:

  • Hereditary Princess (iryt-p`t)
  • Great of Praises (wrt-hzwt)
  • Sweet of Love (bnrt-mrwt)
  • Lady of The Two Lands (nbt-t3wy)
  • King’s Wife (hmt-nisw)
  • Great King’s Wife (hmt-niswt-wrt),
  • King’s Wife, his beloved (hmt-nisw meryt.f),
  • Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt (hnwt-Shm’w-mhw)
  • Mistress of the Two Lands (hnwt-t3wy)

During her husband’s rule, she was able to wield a lot of power, probably more than a typical Queen. She became her husband’s trusted advisor and confidant. She was especially known for gaining the respect of foreign dignitaries, who were willing to deal directly through her. Tiye was the first Egyptian queen to have her name recorded on official acts.

In Akhenaten/Amarna

After Amenhotep III died in either his 38th or 39th regnal year when Tiye was about 48 or 49, their son Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten continued to rule out of Memphis for a few years. Then he decided to move away from Memphis and the religious cult of Re to create a new city in Middle Egypt. This city was called Akhenaten and is currently located in Amarna. His reign triggered a switch from a polytheistic (multiple gods) religion to a monotheistic (one god) religion focusing on the Aten. There is a slight possibility that Tiye had a short co-regency with her son when he came to the throne.

Tiye lived for about 12 years after her husband died, so she was closely involved with her son’s rule in both Memphis and Amarna. She most likely continued to advise her son about foreign relations. A large cache of letters between the Egyptian administration and foreign nations was found in Amarna and several of the letters mentioned Tiye herself. In one letter the king of Mitanni told Tiye directly that he remembered the good relations when her husband ruled and hoped that they will continue to be on friendly terms with her son.

Banquet scene from the tomb of Huya, steward of the Mother of the King, Depicting Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Tiye, and children feasting

Tiye also had a house in Amarna as well as a steward named Huya. In Huya’s tomb in Amarna, Tiye is depicted at a dinner table with Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and their family and then being escorted by the king to her sunshade. The last time that Tiye is mentioned dates to the 12th year of Akhenaten’s reign. She is depicted with her granddaughter Meketaten.

Where was She Buried?

Tiye may have died around 1338 B.C.E. around the age of 60. There is a theory that she may have died in a widespread epidemic that occurred in Amarna and may have taken the life of her granddaughter Meketaten.

She was most likely originally buried in the royal tomb at Amarna. Because Amarna was only occupied for about 14 years, the tomb was never completed. Two northern plinths of the incomplete pillared hall were removed to accommodate a sarcophagus plinth and pieces of her smashed sarcophagus were found in the burial chamber. There is also a destroyed decoration that may indicate Tiye was buried there. In a depiction that closely resembles the mourning of Meketaten, a figure stands beneath a floral canopy while the royal family grieves. The figure wears a queenly sash but cannot be Nefertiti as she is seen with the mourners, so she could be Tiye.

Tomb Relief from the Royal Tomb of Amarna depicting the mourning of Meketaten (Note: this is not the same scene where Tiye may be under a canopy)

Akhenaten did have one or a series of golden shrines built for his mother. The shrine is thought to have looked similar to the second and third shrine of King Tutankhamun. It resembled a large box with a lintel, doors, and a cornice along the top. It was entirely gilded and decorated by large scenes of Akhenaten and Tiye making offerings to the Aten, with a focus on the king rather than his mother. I’ve provided the surviving text on the shrine below. In one instance the House of Aten in Akhenaten is mentioned, which seems to imply that the shrine was made for Tiye’s burial in the royal tomb in Amarna.

But, after the death of Akhenaten, his son King Tutankhamun moved the capital back to Thebes, so he removed the burials of his family to the Valley of the Kings. It is unclear if Tiye was buried with her husband in KV/WV22 or with her son Akhenaten in KV55. Her shabtis were found near her husband’s tomb while the surviving pieces of her shrine were found in her son’s tomb.

The Shrine of Queen Tiye found in KV55

i. Door Post, left: Long live the father Heka-Aten, given life forever continually; (and) the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, who lives of Maat, Neferkheperure-Waenre, and the King’s Mother Tiye, may she live forever.

ii. Door Post, right: King of Upper and Lower Egypt, who lives of Maat, Lord of the Two Lands, Nebmaatre; The King’s Chief Wife, his beloved, King’s mother of Waenre, the Mistress of the Two Lands, [Tiye], may she [live] forever.

iii. Upper traverse, left: Long live the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Lord of the Two Lands, Nebmaatre; (and) the King’s mother, King’s Chief Wife, Tiye, [may she] live. forever.

iv. Upper traverse, right: Long live the King of Upper and Lower Egypt who lives of Maat, Neferkheperure-Waenre, what he made for the king’s mother, the King’s Chief Wife, Tiye

v. Door leaves: Heka-Aten, given life forever continually; Great living Aten. Lord of jubilees, lord of everything [Aten] encircles, lord of heaven, lord of earth in the House of Aten in Akhet-Aten.

vi. Other Side: Nebmaatre, given life forever; [King of Upper and Lower Egypt] Amenhotep III, long in [his] lifetime; [King’s] mother, Tiye, living forever continually.

vii. Side panel of the Canopy: Akhenaten offers to the Aten, followed by Queen Tiye.

Invocation addressed to Tiye: When the Aten appears in his horizon, his rays lift you up at dawn in order to see him every [day]. May you live on the Ka of the living Aten, may [you] breathe the air with finest incense (?).

viii. Lateral Panels: [Long live Heka-] Aten, given life forever continually; (and) the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, who lives of Maat, the Lord of the Two Lands, Neferkheperure-Waenre, the Son of Re, who lives on Maat, Akhenaten, great in his lifetime: what he made for the King’s mother, the King’s Chief Wife, Tiye, may she live. forever.

(Murnane W.J., Texts from the Amarna Period in Egypt)

Her Mummy

Only the mummy of Akhenaten was found in KV55, so it was still unclear where Tiye was buried. In 1898, the tomb of Amenhotep II, KV35, was found with two large caches of royal mummies. You can see the full list in my blog post about Amenhotep III. Priests during the 21st dynasty took many of the royal mummies from their looted tombs and resealed them in the tomb of Amenhotep II. In one of the side chambers of the tomb, three mummified remains were discovered unwrapped. These were an older woman, a younger woman, and a young boy. As I mentioned before the “Younger Lady” was identified as the daughter of Amenhotep III and Tiye and the mother of Tutankhamun. The young boy may be Webensenu or Prince Thutmose.

The “Elder Lady” was proven by DNA to be of Tiye. She was found to be anywhere from 40-50 years old at her death and 4 ft 9 in (145 cm) tall. She had long brown hair attached to her scalp. Her mummy was unwrapped and had been badly damaged. The whole front of the abdomen and part of the thorax were damaged. Her right arm was extended at her side with her palm on her thigh while her left hand was across her chest and gripping something.

A very unique artifact relating to Queen Tiye was found in the tomb of her grandson Tutankhamun. It was a gilded coffin set with four coffins inscribed with her name. Inside the smallest coffin was a small lock of hair that was presumably Tiye’s. In 1976, a microbe analysis was conducted on the hair sample and the hair on her mummy and it proved to be a near perfect match! This may have been seen as a memento from a beloved grandmother.


Photo Credits – Images of wall paintings with Tiye in it and one from Sedinga – Images of Tiye’s bust – Louvre Statue – Computerized tomography image of Queen Tiye head showing the Khat-headress (actual source Arnold, ed., 1996, 32)

Pinterest (Ria Bytes) – Color photo of the mini sarcophagus found in Tut’s tomb

A.M. v. Sarosdy/SC Exhibitions – Color photo of the mini sarcophagus found in Tut’s tomb standing

Flickr (Hand Ollermann) – Black and white (and one color) photos of the mini sarcophagus found in Tut’s tomb – Color photo of the mini sarcophagus found in Tut’s tomb sitting in each other – Funerary Mask thought to be that of Tiye – Reconstructions of Tiye’s bust – Mummy photo – Monumental Statue – New Statue – Scarab (10.130.1643) – Scarab (10.130.99) – Mummy Color Photo

Flickr (Aidan McRae Thomson) – Fragments of the Shrine of Tiye

Flickr (Merja Attia) – Fragments of the Shrine of Tiye

Global Egyptian Museum – Pleasure Lake Scarab

The Ancient Egypt Blogspot – Yuy and Tjuyu photo

Wikimedia Commons – Banquet scene from tomb of Huya

Mummy Monday: Amenhotep III

As I talked about last week, the ancient palace structure of Malqata was built by Amenhotep III, a king in the early 18th Dynasty. Because I really liked learning about Malqata and Amenhotep III, I thought I would make the rest of this week themed about him. So today we are going to talk about the king himself and his mummy.

His Life

Amenhotep III was most likely born around 1401 B.C.E. to Pharaoh Thutmose IV and a minor wife Mutemwiya. He was a member of the Thutmosid family that had ruled Egypt for almost 150 years. His birth (personal) name was Amenhotep-Heqawaset, which roughly means, “Amun is pleased, Ruler of Thebes.” If you didn’t know, Egyptian pharaohs often had more than one name. Depending on the time period, some kings could have up to five names. So Amenhotep III’s throne name was Nebmaatre or “Lord of Truth of Re.”

He may have been crowned king at a very young age, either 6 or 12. He married a non-royal woman named Tiye very early into his rule. They had at least two sons and four daughters. Their eldest son was named Thutmose and he was the High Priest of Ptah in Memphis before he died suddenly, leaving his younger brother Amenhotep IV to inherit the throne. Amenhotep IV later became known as Akhenaten when he took the throne.

Their daughters were most likely named Sitamun, Henuttaneb, Isis/Iset, and Nebetah. Sitamun and Isis/Iset were elevated to the role of the Royal Wife near the end of Amenhotep III’s rule. Although Amenhotep III married at least 6 foreign princesses to secure alliances with different nations, he was adamant that “no daughter of the King of Egypt is given to anyone.”

Throughout his almost 40 year reign, he had stable international trade and a plentiful supply of gold from the mines and other products. Because of this, the economy was booming. He led exhibitions to Nubia to put down a rebellion in his 5th year, but otherwise, his reign was quite peaceful. He has the most surviving statues of any Egyptian pharaoh with over 250 discovered and identified.

Scarab Commemorating the King’s Marriage to Queen Tiye, ca. 1390–1352 B.C. Egyptian, New Kingdom Glazed steatite; L. 8 cm (3 1/8 in.); W. 5.4 cm (2 1/8 in.); H. 2 cm (13/16 in.) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Helen Miller Gould, 1910 (10.130.1643)

During his rule, Amenhotep III commissioned several commemorative scarabs. These scarabs were quite larger than the typical seal scarabs. They had several lines of text, describing some events from his rule. These were created around the 11th year of his reign and have been found in several archaeological sites in Egypt, the Near East, Syria, and Sudan. Here is a list of the scarabs. The two that detail Queen Tiye, I will talk about Wednesday.

  • Lion Hunt Scarab– He claimed that he killed over 100 lions during the first ten years of his reign.
  • Marriage Scarab– He records the name of his wife Tiye with the name of her parents, to state her non-royal birth.
  • Lake Scarab – He announces the construction of a lake for his wife Tiye.
  • Bull Hunt Scarab – He claimed to kill almost 100 bulls in two days.
  • Gilukhepa – To announce the arrival of a Princess Gilukhepa, his new wife, from Mitanni.

As I talked about in the Malqata post, Amenhotep III built the royal palace to celebrate his three Heb-Sed festivals. Just north of the royal palace, he was building his mortuary temple called Kom el-Hettan. It was built by his architect, scribe, and overseer, Amenhotep, son of Hapu. Amenhotep was such a great architect, that the pharaoh blessed him with his own smaller mortuary temple nearby. At the time of its construction, Amenhotep III’s mortuary temple was the largest ever built by a pharaoh. Unfortunately, it completed razed by Ramses II, who used the materials to make his own temple. Only the two colossal statues, called the Colossi of Memnon, are left at the site.

The Colossi of Memnon at the entrance of the former mortuary temple of Amenhotep III

Unlike kings of the Old Kingdom, who combined their tombs and their mortuary temples into huge pyramid complexes, the New Kingdom king realized that this was bad practice because the tombs were robbed very easily. So they built their mortuary temples on the west bank of Thebes and their tombs up in the wadi behind it.

His Death

In his final years, Amenhotep III may have been very sick. According to the Theban tomb of Kheruef, he is depicted very frail. He may have been suffering from arthritis, became obese, or had painful abscesses in his teeth. Around this time, he requested a statue of the Babylonian goddess Ishtar of Ninevah from his father-in-law Tushratta of Mitanni. This statue could supposedly cure him of his aliments, but this is not clear as the statue may have been sent as a blessing of the marriage of the pharaoh and another Mitanni princess.

The latest regnal year mentioned is year 38, so he may have died in year 38 or 39. He was originally buried in the Valley of the Kings, in tomb KV22 or WV22.

His Tomb

This tomb is halfway into the Western Valley of the Kings, on the left and away from the cliff face. They reason that it is also called WV, is because it is located in this separate Western Valley, with only one other tomb. The tomb was originally found by two of Napoleon’s engineers, Prosper Jollois and Edouard de Villiers du Terrage, in 1799, but was excavated by both Theodore M. Davies in 1905-1914 and Howard Carter in 1915. The Egyptian Archaeological Mission of Waseda University in Japan excavated and restored the tomb in 1989.

Conservation of the tomb paintings by Waseda University

Davies left virtually no records of his excavations in the tomb. Carter became interested in the tomb after he purchased three bracelet plaques from a dealer in Luxor that had the name of Amenhotep III. By the entrance of the tomb, he found the foot of a shabti of Tiye and found five intact and one robbed foundation deposits. In the tomb, he found the hub of a chariot wheel, a small fragment of a faience bracelet, and fragments of a canopic chest. The Japanese team found one more foundation deposit with the head and bone of a calf, five miniature pottery vessels, and wooden model cradle, and a wooden carving of a symbolic rope knot which was all in a reed basket.

The tomb was quite a large one, with various passages to try and turn away tomb robbers. This unfortunately didn’t work as the tomb was virtually empty when discovered.

The entrance of the tomb leads to a steep flight of stairs, then an inclined corridor, another steep flight of stairs, and another inclined chamber before reaching a well chamber. This chamber is 5.9 meters down into an undecorated chamber. This room especially may have been built to deter tomb robbers, because the corridor to the rest of the tomb was bricked and stuccoed up to make it seem like a dead end.

The first room that you enter is decorated on three walls with a very similar scheme that will follow through the majority of the tomb. The walls were given a coat of blue wash and topped with a kheker frieze on a yellow background. The sky hieroglyph also runs along the tops of the walls, while a border of red and green stripes run underneath the scenes. The scenes all feature Amenhotep III being given an ankh, which is the sign of life, by different gods and goddesses. He is also presided over by the vulture goddess Nekhbet, which if you remember is a prominent figure in the decoration scheme at the royal palace at Malqata. In this room, he is given life by Anubis, the Western Goddess, and Osiris. He is also protected by his father Thutmose IV’s ka and the goddess Hathor. You can see from the images that some of the faces of the king have been removed. These were removed sometime in the 19th century and are currently located in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

The corridor to the next room was also bricked up and stuccoed before being destroyed by tomb robbers. It leads into an undecorated pillared hall another steep stairway, corridor, and another stairway. This all descends another 9 meters, leaving the burial chamber about 17 meters below ground. These corridors and stairways are undecorated except for a small graffiti reading, “Year 3, 3rd month of Ankhet (season), day 7.” This may have been placed when Amenhotep III was buried in the chamber, but if so the year wouldn’t refer to his reign but rather his son’s or possibly a co-regency between the father and son.

The antechamber is decorated with almost identical decorations to that in the well chamber, with Amenhotep III receiving life from Hathor, Nut, the Western Goddess, Anubis, and Osiris. This room was again sealed from the burial chamber, so the decoration was destroyed by the tomb robbers.

The Burial chamber was a dual-chamber with a few steps between the two chambers. The upper level had six pillars in two rows and had two side chambers. The lower level had a place where the sarcophagus would have sat and had three side chambers, two of which had another side chamber off of it. The sarcophagus was lost and only fragments of its lid remain. The ceiling of these chambers was at one point painted a dark blue with pale yellow stars, but much of the plaster has fallen off.

The burial chamber

The rest of the chamber is painted with a representation of the Amduat, which was an ancient Egyptian funerary text which tells the story of Ra and how he makes the journey through the afterlife when the sun sets. This text is usually reserved only for pharaohs and was used as a way to help the deceased follow that path of Ra through the afterlife. The text and figures are reproduced in the cursive style that was usually found in papyri records. It begins at the left end of the north wall and proceeds clockwise around the chamber. The pillars are mostly damaged, but they feature a similar scheme with the other rooms, depicting Amenhotep before Hathor, Osiris, the Western Goddess, or Anubis.

All but one of the side chambers are undecorated. Most have a slightly lower floor than the previous chamber. Only chamber Jc was plastered and partially decorated with a kheker frieze over the doorway. These rooms were most likely made to house funerary goods or relatives of the king. It has been speculated that Queen Tiye was buried in this tomb for a short time, but we’ll talk about that on Wednesday.

Only the lid of the red granite sarcophagus remains. There is evidence that the king was placed in a series of golden and inlaid anthropoid wooden coffins, with the inner coffin and/or mask made out of solid gold. Debris found in the antechamber indicates that either a mask or one of the coffins had a superb cobra head made out of lapis lazuli with inlaid eyes set in gold. Following the looting of the tomb, the priests of Amon in the 21st dynasty moved multiple mummies from the looted Valley of the King’s tombs to one specific tomb in the valley. This was the tomb of Amenhotep II, KV35.

Are you my Mummy?

Map of KV35. Amenhotep III’s mummy was found in side chamber Jb

The mummy cache in KV35 lay undiscovered until 1898. Although it was the tomb of Amenhotep II, here is a list of the other pharaohs found in this cache:

  • Amenhotep II
  • Thutmose IV
  • Merneptah
  • Seti II
  • Siptah
  • Amenhotep III
  • Ramses IV
  • Ramses V
  • Ramses VI
  • Queen Tiye (originally labeled and the Elder Lady)

  • A prince (either Webensenu, child of Amenhotep II, or Thutmose, son of Amenhotep III)
  • The Younger Lady (mother of Tutankhamun, and daughter of Amenhotep and Tiye)
  • Unknown Lady D (sometimes labeled as Queen Tausret/Twosret)
  • Two skulls and an arm

The mummy of Amenhotep III was found in a side chamber (Jb) with the majority of the other kings. It was located in a makeshift coffin made up of a lid of Sety II and a coffin box of Ramses IV. The identification of the mummy, and many of the mummies found in the cache, are still up for debate.

A label or docket on the shroud of the mummy label the mummy as Amenhotep III. There were also hieratic on bands within the shroud and around the neck of the mummy, but these have yet to be published. The labels on the coffin box and lid identify those pieces with Seti II and Ramses IV. But the label on the lid was edited to add the throne name of Amenhotep III, Nebmaatre. The full text is listed below.

Linen Docket: “Year 12/13 4? prt 6? of Smendes/Pinudjem I: “Yr 12/13 4? prt 6? On this day renewing the burial (?) (whm krs?) of king (nsw) Nebmaatre l.p.h. by the high priest of Amon-Re king of the gods Pinudjem son of the high priest of Amon-Re king of the gods Piankh…(by?)…Wennufer (?)”

The mummy identified as Amenhotep III was badly damaged, either by tomb robbers or the priests who relocated the body. The mummy (now located in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, JE 34560l CG 6107) was unwrapped by G.E. Smith and Dr. Pain on September 13th, 1905. (This practice of course is no longer followed by Egyptologists.) The head of the mummy had been broken off, the back broke, and the entire front wall of the torso was missing. The right leg and thigh had also been detached from each other and the body. The mummy was probably anywhere from 40 to 50 years old when he died. He also had very worn and cavity pitted teeth, which did not necessarily cause his death, which could have left him in severe pain during his final years.

The priests from the 21st dynasty were quite careless in the re-wrapping of the body because bones of two different birds and a big toe, ulna, and radius bone from another person were found wrapped with the body. The birds’ bones may have originally been a food offering in the tomb, but the human bones remain a mystery.

The original embalmers of the body packed the skin with a resinous material, which has led to questioning if this really is the body of Amenhotep III. This technique was popular in the 21st dynasty, so there is the worry that this body was contemporary to the re-burial and not the 18th dynasty. But Smith noted that the 21st dynasty Egyptians packed the bodies with linen, mud, sand, sawdust, or mixtures of fat and soda, but not resin.

While it is not 100% confirmed that this is mummy of Pharaoh Amenhotep III, scholars agree that he is the most likely candidate.


Photo Credits – Photos and layouts of tomb KV22 – Photos of the mummy

Wikimedia commons (Einsamer Schütze) –  Amenhotep III head

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York – Commemorative Scarab (10.130.1643)

Wikimedia commons (MusikAnimal) – Colossi of Memnon – KV35 map

TourEgypt – Map of KV22

Kenneth Garrett, National Geogrpahic Creative – Color photo of mummy

Site Saturday: Malqata

Today we are going to talk about the site Malqata. This was a royal palace and associated city built for the 18th Dynasty Pharaoh, Amenhotep III.

Who was Amenhotep III?

I wanted to briefly introduce Pharaoh Amenhotep III and his family. I’m not going to go into too much detail, because *hint*hint* he and his wife will be featured next Monday and Wednesday, respectively!

Amenhotep III was born around 1401 and ruled Egypt from either 1386-1349 B.C.E. or 1388-1351 B.C.E. His Great Royal Wife was named Tiye, who was a non-royal. They had multiple children, including at least 2 sons and four daughters. Their heir, Thutmose, predeceased his father, so their second son, Amenhotep IV (otherwise known as Akhenaten) took the throne. Their daughters were named Sitamun, Henuttaneb, Isis/Iset, and Nebetah. Sitamun and Isis/Iset were elevated to the office of Great Royal Wife at the end of his reign. Amenhotep III also married several foreign women to secure alliances with foreign powers. He died around the 38th or 39th year of his reign.

Royal palaces of the ancient Egyptians are very hard to find archaeologically because they tend to be buried underneath modern settlements or cultivation. Royal apartments were also sometimes attached to the larger temple structures but on a much smaller scale. It doesn’t seem like the Egyptians built their royal residences at the same scale of other building projects – possibly because they saw them as temporary or useless, compared to the temples that housed their gods or their tombs, which served as their eternal house in the afterlife.

Map of the East and West banks of the Nile at Thebes/Luxor. Malqata can be seen on the far left, with the Birket Habu harbor. Medinet Habu was the funerary temple of Amenhotep III.

Malqata seems to be on the exceptions. While it was constructed completely out of mudbrick, which is a much more perishable material that limestone or granite, some of it still survives to this day. This may be because it was built on the West side of the Nile, instead of the East. In general, the ancient Egyptians lived on the east side of the Nile, while the west side of the Nile was meant for tombs and funerary temples. The ancient Egyptians believe that the afterlife was located in the west, which makes the location of Malqata even more curious. It is attached to the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III by an ancient road, but it is unclear if building royal residences on the west bank was typical or unique for Malqata.

History of the site

It is debated when Amenhotep III began constructing the palace. Some say that he started in year 11 of his reign, while others say he didn’t start until the 29th or 30th year of his reign. Although mudbrick is more perishable, it does allow for quick construction. Regardless of when he started building the palace, the pharaoh and his family most likely didn’t move in until his 29th or 30th year, mainly to celebrate his Heb-Sed festival, which I’ll talk about more below.

The ancient name of the palace was Per-Hay, “The House of Rejoicing.” It was also called “The Palace of the Dazzling Aten.” Malqata is an Arabic word that means “The place where things are picked up,” alluding to the scattered archaeological remains at the site.

Reconstruction of the Royal Palace of Malqata

If he moved to this palace permanently, then he may have abandoned the capital city of Memphis. Although this is not clear, as the palace may have been abandoned in between the three Heb-Sed festivals of Amenhotep III in the 30th, 34th, and 36th/37th years of his reign. Before every festival, the palace may have been refurbished and new structures may have been built. A temple to Amun was known to be built before they returned for the 34th year festival.

After the death of Amenhotep III, the city was largely abandoned. This is mainly due to his son and heir Amenhotep IV, who later renamed himself Akhenaten and moved the capital city to his newly constructed city of Akhenaten, located at the modern archaeological site Amarna. There is some evidence that the next couple of rulers, Tutankhamun, Ay, Horemheb, but this may just be speculation.

A Temple to Isis that dates to the Roman-Byzantine Period is located south of the main complex and may have been built on older remains. Otherwise, the site had been abandoned since the New Kingdom. The majority of it is just outside the cultivated area of modern Egypt, but this is slowly encroaching onto the site.


The Heb-Sed festival was a ceremony for the pharaoh to celebrate 30 years on the throne. This tradition began in the Early Dynastic Period, with Pharaohs Den and Khasekhmwy participating in this ceremony.

Usually, it involved different trials to prove that the pharaoh was still fit and able to rule. It may have involved the pharaoh running a ritual course four times around. This is most evident in the Old Kingdom funerary complex of Djoser, which had multiple depictions of the king running and a large courtyard where this ceremony may have even taken place. Then the king donned a tight-fitting Heb-Sed robe and was carried in a procession.

The Heb-Sed festival began to be celebrated more often for those kings who ruled past 30 years. Amenhotep III wanted his ceremony to be more elaborate than past ceremonies, which may have been why he constructed an entire palace and city to help celebrate it. He hired an official named Amenhotep (son of Hapu) to plan the ceremony. They apparently enlisted scribes to gather information about this festival from all eras and also collected descriptions of clothing worn at previous festivals.

Amenhotep and Tiye participating in the Heb-Sed ceremony.
From Amenhotep III’s temple of Amun Re in Soleb, Nubia.

It looks like the running of the ritual course was not adopted by the later pharaohs. According to a scribe named Nebmerutef, the pharaoh knocked on the temple doors with a mace while his wife and children followed him in procession. He then would have been enthroned with the two crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt.

This festival may have lasted from two to eight months. This is according to Queen Tiye’s steward Khenruef, who would have accompanied the royal family as they traveled the empire celebrating and maybe even recreated the ceremony for different audiences.

Amenhotep is known to have celebrated this festival at least three times in the 30th, 34th, and 36th/37th years of his reign. Most of the evidence of these festivals come from Malqata in the form of jars bearing the names of donors to Amenhotep. These jars bear the donor’s name, title, and the date and indicated that both rich officials and poor servants donated these offerings to the king.

Jar with hieratic label found in Malqata. Label dates it to the 38th year of Amenhotep III’s reign. The pot contained fat prepared by a man named Iuamen and donated by the royal scribe Ahmose. Metropolitan Museum of Art (17.10.02)

The Layout of the Palace

The site extends roughly 30,000 square meters or 30 hectares along the edge of modern cultivation on the west bank. The main structures are clustered together on the north tip of the site. These include the King’s Palace, the North Palace, the later Temple to Amun, a pavilion, administrative buildings, the west villas, and the south village.

Satellite image of the entire site of Malqata

The palace contained many different apartments for the royal family and other officials. The King’s palace was mainly for the king himself and his children – his wife Tiye had her palace across the grounds from him. The royal apartments for the king were in the south-east corner and contained a bedroom, a dressing room, a private audience chamber, and a haram. There were also festival halls, gardens, administrative offices, a library, kitchens, and numerous storerooms nearby. The bedchamber actually had a raised floor where the bed was placed. Across from the pharaoh’s rooms, there were apartments for his sons and daughters, most likely for Sitamun and Isis/Iset.

Amenhotep III had canals built to bring water to the complex and the associated lakes. The canals ended at a harbor that was called Birket Habu, which is currently under modern cultivation. This was a 900-acre T-shape man-made lake. The soil that was dug out to make the harbor sits in mounds to the west. The canals and harbor allowed for easy travel across the river to the city of Thebes. The harbor was home to the golden bark of Amenhotep III called the Dazzling Aten. The Aten was an epithet of Amenhotep III, which became more famous under his son Akhenaten.

An reconstruction of the Birket Habu

The west villages held extensive administrative buildings, residences, and industrial areas. Workshops were found in the south with other industrial areas nearby. Ancient roads connected the palace to Amenhotep III’s funerary complex, called Kom el-Hettan, in the north and Kom el-Samak and Kom el-Abd in the south.

A mound to the south of the harbor was called Kom el-Samak and is believed to be a platform where the Heb-Sed ceremonies took place. The building or platform was reconstructed in several stages in a short period of time, presumably immediately before Amenhotep III wanted to celebrate another Heb-Sed. In the first stage, the building was composed of a central platform with staircases and a superstructure on top. The platform was later enlarged and another staircase and slope were added. These stairs were actually plastered and painted with depictions of captives. The three races featured were Nubians, Syrians, and another Asiatic tribe. This is to symbolize the Egyptian power over these nations, as anyone going up to the platform would have to walk over them. Kom El-Abd was another mudbrick platform to the south, but it is unclear what this was used for.


Throughout the complex, mudbricks were stamped with either the cartouche of Amenhotep III or in the case of the Queen’s chambers, the cartouche of Tiye. The buildings were also incorporated with wood, limestone, sandstone, and ceramic tiles. These mudbrick walls would have been plastered and painted white on the outside, most likely to represent limestone. On the interior, the walls were decorated with vibrant colors and decoration schemes. In general, there were both geometric designs and scenes that featured the gods and nature.

The harem walls had a floral pattern with birds and red and white calves, while the floors were painted to resemble the Nile river and banks, filled with fish and birds. A similar motif to those found in the Kom el-Samak, featuring bound captives, was found in the audience halls and on the steps to the throne. The wooden columns in this chamber were painted to look like lilies supporting the ceiling.

In the royal bedchamber, the vulture goddess Nekhbet was painted on the ceiling with her wings open. The dressing room of the king was decorated in red, blue, and yellow S shape spirals and stylized bulls heads, with Nekhbet on the ceiling.

Excavation History

The palace was discovered by archaeologists several times over the years. In 1888 it was excavated by Georges Daressy. Robb de Peyster Tytus and Percy Newberry excavated here from 1902 to 1902. From 1910-1920 the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York excavated the site with the Egyptian Department of Antiquities. After the excavations, they divided the finds. The MET’s finds are located in rooms 119 and 120 of the museum, featured the beautiful Menat necklace that was found in the remains of a linen bag in one of the private houses. You can read more about this necklace here. The MET team excavated areas of the palaces that the previous excavations did not and mapped the entire site and surrounding area.

Large Menat necklace found in a private home in Malqata. Metropolitan Museum of Art (11.215.450).

From 1971 to 1977, the site was excavated by the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum. Egyptologists David O’Conner and Barry J. Kemp determined that the town was far larger than originally thought. From 1972 the site has been excavated by the Archaeological Mission of Waseda University from Japan. They originally were focused on the south, where they discovered the Kom el-Samak building and associated staircases. Then in 1985, they re-excavated the Great Columned Hall, the Kings Bedchamber, and several other rooms. They also produced multiple reconstructions of the wall and ceiling paintings found in these rooms.

And in 2008 the Joint Expedition to Malqata (JEM) began work there. This was directed by Dr. Diana Patch and Peter Lacavora and sponsored by the MET and the Ancient Egyptian Heritage and Archaeology Fund. They also received grants from the American Research Center in Egypt. The JEM, “has carried out substantial clearance and restoration of the mud-brick walls in the King’s Palace; cleared and mapped part of the Amun Temple; re-cleared and mapped the North Village; opened two new excavation areas, the West Settlement and the Industrial Site; and implemented a number of site management projects, including the installation of site lighting, many meters of fence, and the construction of a guard house. In cooperation with the Ministry of Antiquities, the JEM is working to stabilize the site, restore certain buildings, and protect all of the ancient remains with the ultimate goal of making some areas of Malqata available to visitors.” You can read more about this project here and read more reports here.

Check out this link to access more reports and articles about Malqata excavations!

If you would like to see what the site looks like recently (in 2013), check out this link!


Photo Credits

ARCE page – pictures of 3D reconstruction of palace and hall, and layout of palace

Waseda University – Layout of Palace, remains of painted plaster, reconstructions of ceilings, Kom el-Samak reconstruction, map, and captives images – Reconstruction of Malqata – Satellite image of site

Flickr (kairoinfo4u) – Hot air balloon pictures of the entire site – Map of all sites in Thebes/Luxor – Birket Habu reconstruction – Maps and layouts of the city and palace

Wikimedia commons (Einsamer Schütze) –  Amenhotep III and Tiye photos

Wikimedia commons (EbonyLabelOfDen-BritishMuseum-August19-08.jpg: CaptMondo) – Heb-Sed of Pharaoh Den

TourEgypt – Queen Hatshepsut Heb-Sed and Lepsius Book III, Band 5, Bl. 86 – Amenhotep III’s heb sed