Queen Thyi
Mother of Akhenaten

[Also known as Queen Tiyi, Queen Tiye.]

Another queen has left here one of the most striking portraits ever carved by an Egyptian (fig. 133). The well-known queen Thyi, the consort of the magnificent monarch Amenhotep III, has until now only been known to us by some relief sculptures, and not by any named figures in the round. It is strange that this remotest settlement of Egypt [the Temple of Serabít in the Sinai] has preserved her portrait for us, unmistakably named by her cartouche in the midst of the crown.

Queen Thyi

The material is dark green schistose steatite, and the whole statuette must have been about a foot in height. Unhappily, no other fragment of the figure remained in the temple, and the head alone has been preserved. The haughty dignity of the face is blended with a fascinating directness and personal appeal. The delicacy of the surfaces round the eye and over the cheek shows the greatest care in handling. The curiously drawn-down lips, with their fulness and yet delicacy, their disdain without malice, are evidently modelled in all truth from the life. After seeing this, it seems probable that the supreme fragment of a queen's head in marble from the temple of Tell el Amarna is the portrait of Thyi, and not of Nefertythi (PETRIE, Tell el Amarna, pl. i, 15). This is the more likely as a queen's head found this year at Gurob, and bought for Berlin, is unquestionably in accord with the flat portraits of Nefertythi, and does not resemble the marble head. Moreover, Mr. N. Davies has observed that only the statues of Akhenaten and Thyi are depicted as being in the temple where the marble head was found.

Turning to the new portrait, we gather some details about the queen. The ear is represented as being pierced, as is also the case with her son Akhenaten (Tell el Amarna, pl. i, 9). The crown which she wore was probably of openwork, in gold. The two winged uraei wave their length in loops around the head, till they meet at the back; while in front they are the supporters of the cartouche with the name. From the two sides of the cartouche depend the two uraei over the forehead, the emblem of the great queen of Upper and Lower Egypt. This piece alone was worth all the rest of our gains of the year; it is now in the Cairo Museum.


W. M. Flinders Petrie, Researches in Sinai (John Murray, 1906), pp.126-127.

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