King Tut's grandparents were Egypt's royal power couple

For nearly four decades, Amenhotep III and his great royal wife, Tiye, ruled together over a time of peace and prosperity in ancient Egypt.

A portrait of the young Amenhotep III, left, wearing a khepresh, also known as the blue crown. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. Tiye’s portrait, right, was created after her husband’s death and their son had inherited the throne. Egyptian Museum, Berlin
Left: ARALDO DE LUCA; Right: BPK/SCALA, FLORENCE

The long reign of Amenhotep III and his great royal wife, Tiye, was a golden age for Egypt. Ruling together for as many as 38 years, the pair oversaw a vast and prosperous empire from circa 1391 to 1353 B.C. during Egypt’s 18th dynasty. Wealth poured in from Nubia and the Levant, financing a new era of monument building and artistic expression.

Amenhotep III’s reign is one of the best documented in ancient Egypt. His father, Thutmose IV, passed onto him a wealthy and expansive kingdom at the height of its power and influence. Amenhotep’s empire would stretch 1,200 miles from the Euphrates in current-day Syria to the Fourth Cataract of the Nile in present-day Sudan. Early in his reign, Amenhotep waged successful military campaigns against Nubia, a land rich in gold; after claiming this new territory for Egypt, his reign was largely peaceful, allowing Egypt to grow rich and comfortable.

This placid reign would become a gift for today’s archaeologists and historians because of the wealth of documents and records it left behind. The king’s early years were documented through a series of soapstone scarabs that proclaimed Amenhotep’s successes and milestones. During their reign, Amenhotep III and Tiye built as many as 250 massive structures: palaces, mortuary complexes, temples, and monuments, all decorated with timeless works of art that told the story of the king’s reign. The king’s three jubilee celebrations were documented in excruciating detail.

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