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Alabaster canopic jar from KV55 depicting Kiya at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Dynasty 18th Dynasty
Pharaoh(s) Akhenaten
Titles King's Wife
Spouse(s) Akhenaten
Issue Unknown daughter
Burial Unknown

Kiya (transliteration: kỉyꜣ) was a King's Wife of the Eighteenth Dynasty during the New Kingdom.


Kiya was a secondary wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten, whose Queen was Nefertiti. Surviving evidence demonstrates that Kiya was an important figure at Akhenaten's court during the middle years of his reign, when she had a daughter with him.[1][2] Marc Gabolde proposes that Kiya's daughter was Baketaten, who is more often identified as a daughter of Amenhotep III and Tiye.[3] She disappears from history a few years before her husband's death.

In previous years, she was thought to be mother of Tutankhamun, which would explain her rise in importance. However, this is now unlikely since the genetic studies of the Egyptian royal mummies, led by Zahi Hawass and Carsten Pusch, have now established that Tutankhamun's biological mother was KV35YL, the "Younger Lady" discovered in the mummy cache inside the tomb of Pharaoh Amenhotep II.[4]

Foreign princess[]

It has been suggested that Kiya's unusual name is a "pet" form, rather than a full name, and as such could be a contraction of a foreign name, such as the name of princess "Tadu-Ḫepa", referring to the daughter of King Tušratta of Mitanni.[5] Tadu-Ḫepa married Pharaoh Amenhotep III at the very end of his reign, and the Amarna Letters indicate that she was of marriageable age at that time.[6] In particular, Amarna Letters 27 through 29 confirm that Tadu-Ḫepa became one of Akhenaten's wives. Thus some Egyptologists have proposed that the Mitanni princess and Kiya might be the same person.[1]

However, there is no confirming evidence that Kiya was anything but a native Egyptian.[7] In fact, Cyril Aldred proposed that her unusual name is actually a variant of the Ancient Egyptian word for "monkey," making it unnecessary to assume a foreign origin for her.[8]

In inscriptions, Kiya is given the titles of "The Favorite" and "The Greatly Beloved," but never of "Heiress" or "Great Royal Wife", which suggests that she was not of royal Egyptian blood. Her full titles read, "The wife and greatly beloved of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Living in Truth, Lord of the Two Lands, Neferkheperure Waenre, the Goodly Child of the Living Aten, who shall be living for ever and ever, Kiya." All artifacts relating to Kiya derive from Amarna, Akhenaten's short-lived capital city, or from Tomb KV55 in the Valley of the Kings. She is not attested during the reign of any other pharaoh.[citation needed]



Bust of a young woman, generally identified as Kiya, currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.©

Akhenaten and his family were based in Thebes for the first four years of his reign, establishing the new capital city at Amarna in Year 5. Kiya is not attested during this early period. Only after the move to Amarna does she emerge through inscriptional evidence as one of Akhenaten's wives.

Kiya's name appeared prominently in the temple installation known as the Maru-Aten, at the southern edge of the city, according to epigraphic studies. The inscriptions in the Maru-Aten were eventually recarved to replace the name and titles of Kiya with those of Akhenaten's eldest daughter, Meritaten.[1]

Kiya also had her own residence at Amarna, referred to as the Northern Palace. However, as seen in the palace's inscriptions and portraits, she was - here too - replaced by Meritaten.[9]

The most spectacular of Kiya's monuments is a gilded wooden coffin of costly and intricate workmanship that was discovered in Tomb KV55 in the Valley of the Kings. The coffin's footboard contains an Atenist prayer that was originally intended for a woman, but was later revised to a refer to a man – with enough grammatical errors to betray the gender of the original speaker.[1] The style of the coffin and the language of its surviving inscriptions place its manufacture in the reign of Akhenaten. Scholarly opinion now makes Kiya its original owner.[10] The richness of this coffin, which is comparable in style to the middle coffin of Tutankhamun, provides further evidence of Kiya's exalted status at Amarna.

Death or disgrace[]

Kiya disappears from history during the last third of Akhenaten's reign. Her name and images were erased from monuments and replaced by those of Akhenaten's daughters. The exact year of her disappearance is unknown, with recent authorities suggesting dates that range from Year 11 or 12[7][11][12] to Year 16[13] of Akhenaten. One of the last datable instances of her name is a wine docket from Amarna that mentions Akhenaten's Year 11,[7] indicating that Kiya's estate produced a vintage in that year. Whether she died, was exiled, or suffered some other misfortune, Egyptologists have often interpreted the erasure of her name as a sign of disgrace.[7][11][12]

Various scenarios have been advanced to explain Kiya's disappearance. Having suggested that Kiya was the mother of Tutankhamun, Nicholas Reeves writes that "it is not beyond the realm of possibility that she fell from grace in a coup engineered by the jealous Nefertiti herself."[14] Having argued that Kiya was Tadu-Ḫepa, daughter of the King of Mitanni, Marc Gabolde suggests that she "paid the price" for a deterioration in the alliance between Egypt and Mitanni and was sent back home.[13]

It is uncertain whether Kiya ever used the rich funerary equipment that was prepared against her death. If her disappearance resulted from disgrace or exile, the answer would be no. On the other hand, if she died in good standing with Akhenaten, she probably would have received a lavish burial appropriate to her station. In the latter case, a likely site for her interment would be the Amarna Royal Tomb, which includes a suite of three chambers evidently used to house female members of Akhenaten's family.[15] At least two and possibly as many as three different individuals were interred in this suite, including Akhenaten's daughter Meketaten, the only one whose name survives.[15] Two of the chambers originally included painted plaster reliefs depicting Akhenaten, Nefertiti, certain of their daughters, and other mourners lamenting the deceased.[15] Some Egyptologists have suggested that one of these scenes of mourning refers to Kiya, although no specific evidence supports this claim.[16]

Further, the conventional interpretation of the mourning scenes is that they represent the death in childbirth of the deceased[17] (although this view has recently been challenged).[15][18] The conventional interpretation has encouraged speculation that Kiya died bearing Akhenaten a child, but again, no clear-cut evidence is available.[16][18]

The KV35 "Younger Lady" mummy[]

Some have speculated that the mummy known as The Younger Lady, discovered in KV35, might be that of Kiya. According to Joann Fletcher (who controversially identified the mummy as Nefertiti) a Nubian-style wig was found near the mummy. This style was also associated with Kiya.[19]

DNA test results published in February 2010 have shown conclusively that the Younger Lady mummy was the mother of Tutankhamun, and by extension a wife of Akhenaten.[4] The results also show that she was a full sister to her husband, and that they were both the children of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye.[4] This family relationship rules out the possibility that the Younger Lady was Kiya, because no known artifact accords Kiya the title or attribute "god's daughter." For similar reasons Nefertiti is also ruled out. The report concludes that either Nebetah or Baketaten, younger daughters of Amenhotep III who are not known to have married their father, are the most likely candidates for the identity of the Younger Lady mummy.[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Murnane 1995.
  2. Dodson 2009, p. 17.
  3. Marc Gabolde. The End of the Amarna Period. Last updated 2009-11-05.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Hawass et al. 2010.
  5. Reeves 1988, p. 100.
  6. Moran 1992. Two Mitanni princesses, Kilu-Ḫepa and Tadu-Ḫepa, are referenced in a series of letters, EA 19-29.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Van Dijk 1997, p. 35–37.
  8. Aldred 1991, p. 286.
  9. Reeves 2001, p. 120.
  10. Aldred 1991, p. 205.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Dodson & Hilton 2004, p. 155.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Reeves 2001, p. 159-160.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Marc Gabolde. The End of the Amarna Period. Last updated 11-05-2009.
  14. Reeves 1999, p. 91-92.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Dodson 2009, p. 18-24.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Reeves 2000, p.24.
  17. Aldred 1991, p. 30-32.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Van Dijk 2009, p. 83–88.
  19. Rob Goldberg, "Nefertiti and the Lost Dynasty," National Geographic Channel, 2007.


  • Aldred, C., 1991: Akhenaten: King of Egypt. Thames & Hudson, London.
  • Dijk, J. van, 1997: The Noble Lady of Mitanni and Other Royal Favourites of the Eighteenth Dynasty. In: Essays on Ancient Egypt in Honour of Herman te Velde. Groningen.
  • Dijk, J. van, 2009: The Death of Meketaten. In: Causing His Name To Live. Studies in Egyptian Epigraphy and History in Memory of William J. Murnane. Edited by Peter J. Brand and Louise Cooper. - Culture & History of the Ancient Near East, Vol. 37. Leiden/Boston, Brill.
  • Dodson, A., 2009: Amarna Sunset: Nefertiti, Tutankhamun, Ay, Horemheb, and the Egyptian Counter Reformation. The American University in Cairo Press.
  • Hawass, Z./Gad, Y.Z./Somaia, I./Khairat, R./Fathalla, D./Hasan, N./Ahmed, A./Elleithy, H./Ball, M./Gaballah, F./Wasef, S./Fateen, M./Amer, H./Gostner, P./Selim, A./Zink, A./Pusch, C.M., 2010: Ancestry and Pathology in King Tutankhamun's Family. Journal of the American Medical Association. Chicago, Illinois: American Medical Association. Vol. 303 (7), p. 638–647.
  • Moran, W.L., 1992: The Amarna Letters. Edited and translated by William L. Moran. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Murnane, W.J., 1995: Texts from the Amarna Period in Egypt. Edited by E.S. Meltzer. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. Page 9, p. 90–93, p. 210–211.
  • Reeves, N., 1988: New Light on Kiya from Texts in the British Museum, The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 74.
  • Reeves, N., 1999: The Royal Family. In: Pharaohs of the Sun. Ed. R.E. Freed, Y.J. Markowitz, S.H. D'Auria. Museum of Fine Arts Boston.
  • Reeves, N., 2000: The Complete Tutankhamun. Thames & Hudson, London.
  • Reeves, N., 2001: Akhenaten: Egypt's False Prophet. Thames & Hudson, London.