Who Were Yuya and Tuya?

Posted: July 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

Exploring the facts about the ancient Egyptian nobles who were the grandparents of the Pharaoh Akhenaten.

The Tomb of Yuya and Tuya

In 1905 the discovery of a new tomb in the Valley of the Kings demonstrated just how important the parents of Queen Tiye must have been. Although the tomb was not finished with the painted and carved reliefs found elsewhere in the royal necropolis it was a relatively intact burial replete with a wide variety of funerary items as well as gifts from the relatives of the deceased.

The titles of Yuya and Tuya are prominently displayed on eighteen funerary statues found in the tomb. Yuya is Divine Father of the Lord of the Two Lands, Favorite of the Good God and Favorite of the King. Tuya is Favored of the Good God, Royal Ornament and Great One of the Harem of Amun.

On his coffin Yuya’s other titles include Master of Horse, Deputy of the King’s Chariotry and Chief of the Cattle of Min. This last title connects Yuya to the city of Ahkmin which lay a few days north of Thebes. On her Inner Coffin Tuya is also given the title Chantress of Amun.

The tomb gifts are particularly notable in that many come from the Pharaoh Amenhotep III and his Great Wife Tiye. Along with these gifts were also a number from the princess Sitamun who would have been Yuya and Tuya’s granddaughter.

The Funerary Papyrus

One of the tombs greatest treasures is Yuya’s Funerary Papyrus. This document is a classic example of what modern scholars refer to as a Book of the Dead. The original text left places open so the name of the deceased could be added in. This type of mass produced magical texts testifies to the standardization of burials at the time and indicates that Yuya and Tuya enjoyed a typical Egyptian burial of the period.

Foreign Origins

There has been a good deal of speculation among modern scholars about the possible foreign origin of Yuya. The mummies of both Yuya and Tuya were found in excellent condition. While Tuya shows features that could be seen as typically Egyptian, Yuya’s appearance is atypical with an aquiline nose that has been described as Semitic.

Another reason to suggest that Yuya was of foreign origin is due to the variety of spellings given to his name. In fact the name “Yuya” has merely been adopted as a convention. In the tomb the name has eleven different versions including Ya, Ya-a, Yi-ya, Yu-Yu and Yi-Ay.

The Pharaoh Ay

This spelling confusion has linked Yuya to the Pharaoh Ay who would reign a generation after Yuya’s death. It is generally believed that Ay was Yuya’s son. Both Yuya and Ay have their names spelled a variety of ways some of which are identical. Yuya and Ay also share the enigmatic title Divine Father which may indicate a role of father-in-law to the king. During Ay’s reign as Pharaoh he built a temple in Ahkmin which may show that this was the family’s hometown.

If Ay was Yuya’s son this is not evidenced in the funerary goods from the tomb. In the tomb only one son, Annen, is mentioned. Annen was however an important individual in his own right holding the titles of High Priest of the sun god Re and Second Prophet of Amun.

Family Legacy

After the death of Amenhotep III Tiye would continue to rule as Queen Mother and held influence at home and abroad. As the parents of Queen Tiye, Yuya and Tuya would have been the grandparents of the Pharaoh Akhenaten, who created an extreme version of the solar cult in Egypt known as Atenism.

If Ay and Annen were indeed both the brothers of Queen Tiye then these siblings and their parents would represent one of the most powerful families in ancient Egyptian history.


Davis, Theodore, (The Tomb of Iouiya and Touiyou with the Funerary Papyrus of Iouiya, Duckworth, London, 2000)

Redford, Donald, (Akhenaten, the Heretic King, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1984)

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