Egypt: The Treasures of Yuya and Tuyu

The Treasures of Yuya and Tuyu
Text and Commentary by
William Max Miller, M. A.

Left: "...The name of her father is Yuya. The name of her mother is Tuyu..." Commemorative scarab announcing the marriage of Tiye to Neb-Maat-Re
Amenhotep III, which emphatically proclaims the names of her parents.

Before the discovery of Tutankhamen's opulent treasures, the tomb of Yuya and Tuyu was one of the most important burials to be found in the Valley of the Kings. Discovered on February 5'th, 1905, by James Quibell and Theodore M. Davis, the tomb (designated KV 46) contained one of the most complete and beautifully made sets of funerary equipment then known.

Located between the tomb of Ramesses XI (KV 4) and a tomb from the time of Ramesses III (KV 3), KV 46 provides a good example of a single-chambered staircase tomb architecturally similar to other non-royal tombs found in the Valley (see diagram , showing the tomb's architectural plan, from Davis's The Tomb of Iouiya and Touiyou [London, 1907,] 24.) Dating from the 18'th Dynasty, it contained the burials of Yuya and Tuyu, the parents of Queen Tiye, and its many intact objects give an idea of how a high-status burial from the time of Amenhotep III was provisioned.

High-status the burial undoubtedly was. Yuya and his wife Tuyu were no mere "commoners," elevated to a lofty social position solely by their daughter's royal marriage, as earlier commentators believed, but were probably individuals who had exerted immense political influence during the reigns of Amenhotep III and his father, Tuthmosis IV. The scarabs issued to commemorate the marriage of Amenhotep III to Tiye name her parents prominently in an unprecedented fashion, as though intentionally stressing the royal alliance with this Akhmim-based family. C. N. Reeves argues that the naming of Yuya and Tuyu on the marriage scarabs, which were most likely issued during Amenhotep III'rds second reignal year (when he was still a boy) indicates that the royal in-laws already exerted considerable political clout prior to their daughter's marriage, and may even have functioned as "powers behind the throne" during their youthful son-in-law's early years of rule. The many impressive titles of Yuya and Tuyu (including Gods Father," His Majestys Lieutenant Commander of Chariotry," Master of the Horse," Priest of Min," "Overseer of the cattle of Min, Lord of Akhmim" for Yuya and Kings Mother of the Great Royal Wife, Chief of the Harem of Min," Priestess of Amen," Chief of the Harem of Amen," and Chantress of Hathor," for Tuyu) as well as their sumptuous burial in the Royal Valley, support this opinion.

Although their tomb had been robbed of its portable metallic objects and expensive linens in antiquity, most of the major funerary furnishings of Yuya and Tuyu remained intact (see diagram # 2, reprinted in DRN, 150, showing positions of objects in the tomb.) Davis, Quibell, Weigall, and Maspero (all of whom participated in the clearance of KV 46) theorized that the tomb had only been entered by thieves once, but Reeves discerns evidence for three separate intrusions. He believes that KV 46 had probably been first plundered soon after the burials of Yuya and Tuyu, and bases this view on the absence of precious oils from the tomb's remaining contents. The valuable oils so highly prized by the Egyptians did not keep long, and would only have been stolen while they were still fresh. Reeves dates two other possible robberies of KV 46 to the 20'th Dynasty, when gangs working on KV 3 and KV 4 had ample opportunity to enter and loot the smaller burial located so closely nearby. The inclusion by Quibell of two seal impressions bearing the names of Ramesses III (CG 51179-80) in his catalogue of objects associated with the burial would seem to pin-point the time of at least some type of post-interment activity to the reign of that king.However, Quibell did not take these seals into account when formulating his chronology of illicit activity in KV 46, and Elizabeth Thomas, who mentions only one of these seals in her work, considered it to be intrusive and irrelevant to the reconstruction of the tomb's pillaging.She indicates that this seal may even have been found in the filling above the entrance stairway, or in the filling of the stairway itself. Even if the seals cannot be used to date one of the alleged robberies, the fact that KV 46 was found covered by a layer of chippings from KV 3 and KV 4 proves that it could have been robbed no later than the 20'th Dynasty. For a detailed analysis of post interment activity in KV 46, click here or on the link below.

Theodore M. Davis published an account of the discovery of KV 46, including photographic plates of the objects with descriptions written by Percy E. Newberry. The Tomb of Iouiya and Touiyou was his only official publication of the tomb, and lacks the kind of detail required by today's more scientific Egyptologists. However, this work possesses a charm all its own, with its outdated spellings and colorful assumptions helping to convey the romantic ambience of Egyptology during the Gilded Age. You can read the complete version of his report by clicking on the link below. Also, read Arthur Weigall's version of events at this tomb from his book, The Glory of the Pharaohs ([London, 1923,] 127-130.) Weigall adds color to the dry facts recounted by Davis.

Below are images of some of the objects discovered in the tomb. Commentary in quotation marks comes from Percy E. Newberry's descriptions printed by Theodore M. Davis in The Tomb of Iouiya and Touiyou. For a bibliography of relevant publications used in preparing this online exhibit, go to the end of the page. Any online sources of images are acknowledged by link in the photo credit caption accompanying the images. References to deities on this page link to the Egyptian Mythology section of the Encyclopedia Mythica website. Further detailed information on the mummies of Yuya and Tuyu in our XVIII'th Dynasty Gallery III may be viewed by clicking the links for their mummies given below.