ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Akhenaten’s Grandmother and the Kikuyu

Updated on March 23, 2015

Akhenaten was the Pharaoh who is credited with starting Monotheism in 18th Dynasty Egypt. Here, we shall be more concerned with his grandmother called Mutemwiya (spelled as Mutemwaya by some writers). Before we discuss Mutemwiya, two trees need to mentioned. These are the Sycamore and the Olive. The Sycamore, Ficus sycamora is a sacred tree to both the ancient Egyptians and the Kikuyu. It is stated by writers on the Kikuyu that the originator of the tribe was called Gĩkũyũ which translates as “the Big Fig Tree” in Kikuyu language.

The Olive, Olea chrisofila, was the ‘female’ among sacred trees to both the Kikuyu and the Ancient Egyptians. That said, we shall come back to the significance of these trees shortly.

To bring Mutemwiya into perspective, let us look at her more famous relatives. Below is a brief chronology of the period from Thothmes IV to the reign of Akhenaten after Collier (1970).

1.Thothmes IV (1414 – 1412) – He was the husband of Mutemwiya.

2.Amenhotep III (1405 – 1367) – His mother was Mutemwiya.

3.Amenhotep IV (1378 – 1362). His Grandmother was Mutemwiya.

Amenhotep IV married Queen Nefertiti with whom it is claimed they had only Girls. He later changed his name to Akhenaten and decreed that only one God would be worshipped. Then he moved his capital from Thebes to a location he called Akhetaten, which we now know as Amarna. In this place, a number of clay tablets which were identified as correspondence between the Pharaoh and his vassal kingdoms were found. The tablets are popularly called the Amarna letters.

In one of the Amarna Letters, a tablet with the words ‘book of the Sycamore and the Olive’ was found. I have concluded the following:

4.The Sycamore (a sacred fig tree) was a title of the Pharaoh Akhenaten in whose city it was found.

5.The Olive which is a sacred ‘female tree’ was a title of Queen Nefertiti who lived in the city of Akhetaten with her husband, the Pharaoh.

This is one instance where a Pharaoh is associated with the Sycamore tree. The reason for this conclusion is in the hub ‘Akhenaten and the Kikuyu,’ but it will soon be very clear.

Mutemwiya, God’s wife and God’s mother

Though Mutemwiya is not as famous as her grandson, she was probably more important than Egyptologists have painted her. She is said to have been a third wife to Pharaoh Thothmes IV, but the titles listed here indicate that she may very well have been a venerated first wife.

Some of Mutemwiya’s titles were:

· God’s Wife

· God's Mother

· Lady of The Two Lands

· Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt

· Great King’s Wife

· Great of Praises

The question that comes to mind is whether a third wife would deserve such titles. What then were the titles of the first wife? I would suggest that she was a first wife, with many honorary titles including Mutemwiya and that she was too venerated to be called by her real name. In fact, we may never know her real name.

Collier (1970) believes that the prefix Mut in the name Mutemwiya associates her with the Godess Mut, wife of the God Amun Ra. Mut was the Godess of Truth and Justice. Since a Pharaoh was a God on earth, this matches very well with her other titles above. It is very likely that the root of the word Mutemwiya – Mwiya, was the word for Olive. In the days of Harems, the first wife was the head of all the other women in her husband’s life and this cannot have been different for Mutemwiya. She was therefore not only God’s Wife but also The Great Olive.

Mutemwiya and the Kikuyu connection

An Olive tree is called a Mutamaiyo in the Kikuyu language. A woman is called a Mutumia. The Olive tree, according to LSB Leakey, was sacred to Kikuyu women. This must have been an important title in antiquity. In the Kamba language and Mijikenda languages of the coastal region of Kenya, a Mutumia or Mudumia is a respected old man. Obviously the meaning shifted to men in what is known in linguistics as a semantic shift when Male leaders assumed the title without delving into its origins. The Kikuyu retained the term mutumia for women. This can be explained by the myth of origin, where the women are the heads of the nine clans, while the men are surbodinate. The woman was the ‘Retu’ – Egyptian. No wonder initiated girls are called ‘Airetu.’ Cagnolo states that Retu was the term the Egyptians used to differentiate themselves from other cultures.

So the Olive or Mutamaiyo, or Mutemwiya was the sacred female, whether human or tree. This statement is valid for both the Ancient Egytpians and the Kikuyu. We can conclude that the word was a venerated title, originally for the leading female – the first lady, the Pharaoh’s wife. For the Kikuyu, the word was transferred to all the heads of the nine clans. Eventually every woman became the head of her own homestead in the era remembered by the Kikuyu as when ‘Women ruled.” Every woman became a Mutemwiya; or to use current spelling, a Mũtumia and semantic field eventually shifted to only married women.

In all the dances described by Leakey in his treatise on the Southern Kikuyu, it is women who chose a dancing partner and not the other way round. This appears to have been a continuation of the ancient Female Hegemony when women were in control.

Mut was the Godess of Truth and Justice. It is no wonder then that the word for mother in Kikuyu – Maitu – can be deconstructed into two morphemes: Ma (truth), Itũ (ours) - Our truth. Every Mũtumia was eventually a Maitũ when she married and became a mother, a word that is coined from the prefix Mut in Mutemwiya. We can conclude that the memory of Akhenaten’s Grandmother lives on unconsciously in Kikuyu psyche.


1. Cagnolo, C.,1933, The Akikuyu, Their customs, Traditions and Folklore, Mission Printing school, Nyeri.

2. Collier, J., 1970, In search of Akhenaten ,Ward Lock Limited - London

3. Giles, F. J., 1970, Ikhnaton: Legend and History, Hutchinson, London.

4. 4.

5. 5.

6. 6.

7. Leakey, L.S.B., 1977, The Southern Kikuyu before 1903, Vol I, II & III, Academic Press, London.

8. Akhenaten and the Kikuyu People of Kenya

9. Akhenaten and the Kikuyu People of Kenya


Submit a Comment

  • profile image

    mbugua kibera 

    6 years ago

    i am learning


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)