Tiye (c. 1398 BC – 1338 BC, also spelled Taia, Tiy and Tiyi) was the daughter of Yuya and Tjuyu (also spelled Thuyu). She became the Great Royal Wife of the Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep III and matriarch of the Amarna family from which many members of the royal family of Ancient Egypt were born. Tiye’s father, Yuya, was a wealthy landowner from the Upper Egyptian town of Akhmin, where he served as a priest and superintendent of oxen. Tiye's mother, Thuya, was involved in many religious cults, as her different titles attested (Singer of Hathor, Chief of the Entertainers of both Amun and Min...), which suggests ties to the royal family.
It is sometimes suggested that Tiye's father, Yuya, was of Asiatic descent due to the features of his mummy and the many different spellings of his name, which might imply it was a non-Egyptian name in origin, and that the queen's strong political and unconventional religious views might have been due not just to a strong character but to foreign descent .
Tiye also had a brother, Anen, who was Second Prophet of Amun. Other egyptologists speculated that Ay, successor of Tutankhamen as a pharaoh after the latter's death, might have been descended from Tiye. No clear date or monument can confirm the link between the two, but the egyptologists presupposed this by Ay's origins, also from Akhmin, and because he inherited most of the titles that her father, Yuya, held during his lifetime at the court of Amenhotep III.
Tiye was married to Amenhotep III by the second year of his reign. He appears to have been crowned while still a child, perhaps between the ages of six to twelve. They had at least six children, one of whom, Akhenaten, went on to become pharaoh. Tiye's eldest daughter, Sitamun, also is likely to have married her father, Amenhotep III, and become entitled, Royal Great Wife. Recent works explain that it was mostly a symbolical marriage, as it occurs during Tiye's lifetime and, probably, with her consent. Other than those two, Tiye also gave birth to Henuttaneb, Nebetiah, Isis, and Thutmosis. A fifth daughter, Baketaten, is presumed as attributed to Tiye, but the father is still not confirmed.
She even appeared as equal in size, realistically depicted in relation to the pharaoh, on many statues and stelas, which some researchers state was unprecedented in Ancient Egyptology representation art, as seen in the image of them to the right, where his left arm and shoulder remains on the fragment. Some researchers state that this was unprecedented since no previous queen appeared so openly during her husband's own rule however, artifacts from earlier times in the culture reveal examples of just that. Menkaura and his consort, Queen Khamerernebty II, were depicted similarly during the New Kingdom when he was a pharaoh of the fourth dynasty of Egypt during c. 2620 BC–2480 BC. Her husband devoted a number of shrines to her and constructed a temple dedicated to her in Sedeinga in Nubia where she was worshipped as a form of the goddess Hathor-Tefnut. He also had an artificial lake built for her in his Year 12. As the American Egyptologists David O'Connor and Eric Cline note:
The unprecedented thing about Tiyi ... is not where she came from but what she became. No previous queen ever figured so prominently in her husband's lifetime. Tiyi 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 jewelry, 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—emphasize her role as the king's divine, as well as earthly partner. Amenhotep III built a temple to her in Sedeinga in northern Sudan, where she was worshiped as a form of Hathor ... The temple at Sedeinga was the pendant to Amenhotep III's own, larger temple at Soleb, fifteen kilometres to the south (an arrangement followed a century later by Ramses II at Abu Simbel, where there are likewise two temples, the larger southern temple dedicated to the king, and the smaller, northern temple dedicated to the queen, Nefertiry, as Hathor).
Her son, Akhenaten, would later build a sumptuous shrine for her during his reign and treat his own queen, Nefertiti, almost as a co-regent.
Tiye enjoyed a good deal of power during both her husband’s and son’s reigns. Amenhotep III became a fine sportsman, a lover of outdoor life, and a great statesman. He often had to consider claims for Egypt's gold and requests for his royal daughters in marriage from foreign kings such as Tushratta of Mitanni and Kadashman-Enlil I of Babylon. Tiye was her husband’s trusted adviser and confidant, who played an active role in foreign relations and was the first Egyptian queen to have her name recorded on official acts.
She may have continued to advise her son, Akhenaten, when he took the throne. Her son’s correspondence with Tushratta, the king of Mitanni, speaks highly of the political influence which Tiye wielded at court. In Amarna letter EA 26, Tushratta, king to Mitanni, corresponded directly with Tiye to reminisce about the good relations which he enjoyed with her then deceased husband and extended his wish to continue on friendly terms with her son, Akhenaten.
Amenhotep III died in Year 38 or Year 39 of his reign (1353 BC/1350 BC) and was buried in the Valley of the Kings in WV22, however, Tiye is known to have outlived him for as long as twelve years. Tiye continued to be mentioned in the Amarna letters and in inscriptions as queen and beloved of the king. Amarna letter EA 26 which is addressed to Tiye, dates to the reign of Akhenaten. She is known to have had a house at Amarna, Akhenaten's new capital and is shown on the walls of the tomb of Huya – a "steward in the house of the king's mother, the great royal wife Tiyi" – depicted at a dinner table with Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and their family and then being escorted by the king to her sunshade. In an inscription approximately dated to November 21 of Year 12 of Akhenaten's reign (1338 BC), both she and her granddaughter Meketaten are mentioned for the last time. They are thought to have died shortly after that date.
In 1898, Victor Loret discovered a mummy of a pharaoh that is believed to have been Amenhotep III. Alongside it was the mummy of an "Elder Lady". The identification of the "Elder Lady" as Tiye, has found considerable support among scholars, but an examination of the mummy is inconclusive in terms of her age. A lock of Tiye's hair was found in a nest of miniature coffins in Tutankhamun's tomb which is stated as belonging explicitly to Tiye.
If Tiye died soon after Year 12 of Akhenaten's reign (1338 BC), this would place her birth around 1398 BC, her marriage to Amenhotep III at the age of eleven or twelve and her becoming a widow at the age of forty-eight to forty-nine. Suggestions of a co-regency between Amenhotep III and his son Akhenaten lasting for up to twelve years continue, but most scholars today either accept a brief co-regency lasting no more than one year at the most, or no co-regency at all.
Tiye is believed to have been buried in Akhenaten's royal tomb at Amarna alongside her son and granddaughter, Meketaten, as a fragment from the tomb not long ago was identified as being from her sarcophagus. Her gilded burial shrine (showing her with Akhenaten) ended up in KV55 while shabtis belonging to her were found in Amenhotep III's WV22 tomb.
Whether or not she was buried in either of these tombs is not known. In the tomb KV35, a mummy known as the Elder Lady has been identified tentatively, as hers. The British scholars Aidan Dodson & Dyan Hilton state, however, that "it seems very unlikely that her mummy could be the so-called 'Elder Lady' in the tomb of Amenhotep II. This view also is supported because the Elder Lady's teeth look as if they were those of a twenty-nine year old rather than a fifty-nine year old. However, recent evidence suggests that the DNA analysis between the Elder Woman's teeth and the lock of hair found in Tutankhamun's tomb suggest that the body is Tiye and is nearer to a middle aged woman.