At the age of 12, Amenhotep III inherited the throne after the death of his father Amenhotep IV.
His 38 year reign marks the zenith of ancient Egyptian civilisation, both in terms of political power and cultural achievement.
Amenhotep commanded a strong construction scheme and enlarged many cities and temples. He built a palace and a temple at Malkata, located on the western shores of Thebes and the southern part of Medinet Habu, now only marked by the two colossi of Memnon, as the palace and the temple was completely destroyed during an earthquake that struck the country in antiquity. Other colossi have now been raised up at the temple site, thanks to excavation and restoration works carried out by the Colossi of Memnon and Amenhotep III Temple Conservation Project (CMATCP), led by Egyptologist Hourig Zourouzian.
Amenhotep III colossus at his funerary temple in Luxor
A vast harbour and canal network linked these buildings to the Nile and allowed direct access to the king’s new temple at Luxor and the great state temple of Amun at Karnak.
King Amenhotep III maintained Egypt’s political position largely through diplomacy and intermarriage with the royal families of Mitanni (Syria), Babylonia and Arzawa (Anatolia). But his great royal wife was queen Tiye, the daughter of a provincial official.
She had a strong personality and was very intelligent and Amenhotep built and dedicated a temple to honour her. Together they had several sons and daughters but their most renowned son is Amenhotep IV, who became the monotheistic king Akhenaten.
Queen Tiye’s mummy
Although Amenhotep III greatly embellished Karnak as part of his nationwide building programme, the growing power of Amun’s clergy was skilfully countered by promoting the ancient sun god Ra.
French engineers from Napoleon Bonaparte’s expedition, Jollis and Devilliers discovered Amenhotep III’s tomb in August 1799. The tomb was found empty and the walls badly damaged due to salt and exposure to the elements.
Today the tomb is known as KV22 and is located in the Valley of the Kings. Restoration is underway to return the tomb to its original appearance.
The mummy of king Amenhotep III was found in 1881 among other royal mummies in a cache by the Abdel Rassul brothers in the Al-Deir Al-Bahari area.
The mummy of Queen Tiye, was identified in 2010 by Egyptian and foreign Egyptologists and scientists. Known as the Elder Lady with Hair, it was found in KV 35 alongside the remains of a younger woman, now identified as Tutankhamun’s mother.
Tiye supported her son Akhenaten during his revolution against Egypt’s traditional god Amun and converted the whole nation to worship only one god, the sun disk Aten.
Amenhotep III with god Khosnu at his funerary temple in Luxor