The Tomb of Pharaoh Aÿ, The Successor of Tutankhamun

The Tomb of King Ayi WV23 Luxor Egypt in the Valley of the Kings

Hurghada Excursions

Kheperkheperura-Ay was the 14th Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty, who had a short reign of 3 or 4 years (1346-1343 BC), succeeding the young Tutankhamon, who died prematurely. With him closed what was called “the Amarna period”, during which Akhenaton, “the heretic”, and his immediate successors tried to change the thousand-year-old religious system of the country. In fact, these had never disappeared, and after these pharaohs, they returned to their honourable state. (Here)

Pharaoh Ay is performing the Opening of the Mouth ceremony on his predecessor Tutankhamen. He is wearing the Leopard skin worn by Egyptian High Priests and a Khepresh, a blue crown worn by Pharaohs.

The Opening of Mouth

Ay held the throne of Egypt for a brief four-year period in the late 1300s BC. Before his rule, he was a close advisor to two, and perhaps three, other pharaohs of the Dynasty. It is theorized that he was the power behind the throne during Tutankhamun‘s reign. His prenomenKheperkheperure means “Everlasting are the Manifestations of Ra,” while his nomen Ay it-netjer reads as “Ay, Father of the God.” Records and monuments that can be clearly attributed to Ay are rare, both because his reign was short and because his successor, Horemheb, instigated a campaign of damnatio memoriae against him and the other pharaohs associated with the unpopular Amarna Period. Wikipedia

Here is another brilliant description by Marie Grillot about the discovery of this magical tomb. 🙏💖 via

La tombe du pharaon Aÿ, successeur de Toutankhamon

Sarcophagus room from the Tomb of Aÿ (KV-WV 23), the successor of Tutankhamun – New Kingdom
discovered in 1816 by Giovanni Battista Belzoni in the West Valley

It is in the Valley of the West – “Ouadi al-Gharbi” – the tomb of the pharaoh Aÿ (KV – WV – 23 – King Valley / West Valley). The entrance to the “secondary” branch of the royal Necropolis, also called Bibân al-Gouraud (tomb or door of the monkeys), is located to the right of the Valley of the Kings.

View of the wadi which, in the West Valley, leads to the tomb of Aÿ (KV-WV 23)
discovered in 1816 by Giovanni Battista Belzoni

This mineral universe, surrounded by high cliffs, which in shades of pink, beige, brown, draw strange shapes and soar in rocky spurs against an intense blue sky, should not differ much from that which was offered to Giovanni Battista Belzoni when he borrowed it in 1816 and accidentally discovered the tomb there. “I went further into the valley, and in one of the most remote places, I saw a heap of stones which seemed to detach from the mass. The voids between these stones filled with sand and rubbish. It turns out that I had a stick with me, and by pushing it into the holes in the rocks, I found that it penetrated very deeply. I immediately returned to Gournou and procured myself a few men to open this place “.

Portrait of Giovanni Battista Belzoni (Padua, 5-11-1778 – Timbuktu, 3-12-1823)by Jan Adam Kruseman

He will come back with them the following day, but after severe ophthalmia, he will have difficulty finding the place. Then, “As we removed a few stones, we found that they were running inward; and, indeed, we were so close to the entrance that in less than two hours, we removed all the stones. I had brought candles, and I entered, followed by the Arabs. I cannot boast of having made an extraordinary discovery in this tomb. However, it contains several curious and singular painted figures on the walls. After its extended, and part of a sarcophagus remained in the centre of a large chamber, there is reason to suppose that it was the burial place of some person of distinction. The tomb consists of three chambers, two corridors and a staircase; but the remote location in which it was found makes it remarkable “.

It will be excavated in 1824 by Carl Richard Lepsius and John Gardner Wilkinson, the following year by James Burton, then, in 1908, by Howard Carter. After restoration by the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Otto Schaden will conduct the last excavations there in 1972 …

Entrance ticket for the tomb of Aÿ (KV-WV 23) discovered in 1816
by Giovanni Battista Belzoni in the West Valley

To visit it nowadays, you have to “recover” the gaffer in his little hut, which is in front of Theodore Davis’ house: it is he who holds the key to the tomb and will operate the generator.

The wadi, its almost white ground, is covered with bivalves and lamellibranchs and sinks into the mountain’s heart for more than 2 km. At a junction, halfway, we leave the tomb of Amenhotep III (KV 22) discovered by the scholars of Bonaparte on the left, and we continue the path to its end. …

The unfinished hypogeum is at the top right, a few meters from two other small, anonymous tombs without decoration (KV 24 and KV 25) …

Sarcophagus room from the tomb of Aÿ (KV-WV 23), the successor of Tutankhamun – New Kingdom
discovered in 1816 by Giovanni Battista Belzoni in the West Valley

It comprises a long corridor that descends steeply and serves a small vestibule than the “gold room”. The imposing rectangular sarcophagus (2.96 m × 1.20 m and 1.79 m high) is at its centre: carved from red granite, it is a naos shape. Discovered broken, it was taken to the Cairo Museum at the beginning of the 20th century for restoration, then “it regained its original place in the 1990s. The tank presents scenes from the Book of the Dead, and at the angles, the moving goddesses Neith, Selket, Isis and Nephthys extend their winged arms as a sign of protection while, in the centre, radiates the solar disk, also winged.

At the four angles of the sarcophagus of Aÿ (KV-WV 23), the goddesses Neith, Selket, Isis, and Nephthys extend their winged arms as a sign of protection of the deceased while in the centre radiates the solar disk, also winged.

As for its domed lid on which “there is a central column of text, in which the king’s cartouches not being hammered”, it was discovered by Otto Schaden in 1972.

In the walls of this room (8.89 m × 6.46 m × 3.92 m) were dug four “niches”, intended to house the “magic bricks” or “sacred bricks” related to Osiris: “According to chapter 137A of the Book of the Dead, on the western brick, it is to be placed a pillar-djed, which is an Osirian object, and on the eastern brick, the figurine of Anubis, which is closely associated with the protection of the dead god. Likewise, according to this text, the magic brick must be made in “sjn wȝḏ”, which designates raw clay, but also green clay, an Osirian colour par excellence “; the other two bricks being: “in the south – the one with the torch and in the north – the brick with the mummiform figurine” (Elka Koleva-Ivanov).

The representations of Aÿ (here in front of Osiris or greeted by the goddess Hathor bearing the sign of the West)
are all damaged by hammering – Tomb of Aÿ (KV-WV 23)

The wall scenes, painted on plaster, immediately bring back to the iconography of Tutankhamun’s tomb… “The sarcophagus room is decorated with various stages, including a bird hunting scene; on the right wall, twelve cynocephaly (those of the twelve hours of the night of the Book of Hades) gave this hypogeum the name of Bâb el-Qouroud, the tomb of the monkeys “analyzes the Egyptologist Marcelle Baud (” Guide Bleu Egypt “, 1956).

Tomb of Aÿ (KV-WV 23): “the solar boat carrying the star in the making in the form of the Khépri scarab,
sail in the night sky. Khepri is flanked by two worshipping men, whose divine nature
is evidenced by their curved beards; each named “Osiris”, they represent Ay osirified “(Thierry Benderitter)

Kent Weeks specifies that “The tomb of Aÿ owes its plan to the royal tombs of Tell el-Amarna rather than those from the beginning of the 18th Dynasty. This tomb is similar to KV 62 (Tutankhamun), and some Egyptologists believe these two tombs were the exact artist’s work. In both cases, only the burial chamber received a decoration. Unfortunately, many scenes of KV 23 were damaged, sometimes since Antiquity, by anxious Egyptians to erase all evidence of the Amarna period – the cartridges and the faces of the sovereign were almost all mutilated – but also by thieves and vandals “.

When he became the 14th Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty, Aÿ was in his sixties. “Flabellifère on the right of the king, director of all the horses of His Majesty, his true scribe, his beloved, Ay”, or even “Divine Father”: these titles testify to his long career, military and political, in the service of the sovereigns previous ones. Strongly linked to the “Amarnian episode”, he had a vital role in the confused and troubled time that followed the decline of Akhenaten and the “return” to the cult of Amun. Succeeding Tutankhamun, who died prematurely, he married his young widow Ankhesenamon …

In the tomb of Aÿ (KV-WV 23), the four sons of Horus are shown seated, two by two facing each other.
They are represented osiriform, with a tight shroud from which emerge the hands holding a nekhakha whip.
Douamutef and Qebsenouef on the left wear the white crown of Upper Egypt
while, on the right, Amset and Hapy wear the red crown of Lower Egypt

His mummy was not found, and the question arises whether this grave was really meant for him and whether he was really buried there …

Tomb of Aÿ (KV-WV 23): One of the twelve baboons depicted on the north wall

For Kent Weeks: “There is no doubt that the last occupant was Aÿ, the successor of Tutankhamun and Smenkhkarê. Nevertheless, Egyptologists convinced that the tomb could have been dug first for AmenophisIV / Akhenaton, Tutankhamun, Smenkhkârê “…

Tomb of Aÿ (KV-WV 23): Hunting scene in the swamps

For Marc Gabolde: “It appears that Aÿ most likely buried in grave WV 23 but that the grave was desecrated shortly after the burial. In fact, knowing the sponsor’s identity of this desecration could help to know who the funeral’s real organizer was. Some logic would say that it was Horemheb. But since equally convincing arguments allow us to believe that Horemheb is the author of the mutilations of royal names and images in the tomb … it is hard to imagine that the same character initially piously organized the funeral of his predecessor. Subsequently, had the tomb reopened to expurgate the names and representation … “

Hieroglyphics in the tomb of Aÿ (KV-WV 23)

Part of the story, therefore, remains to be written … This is what the Egyptian teams are working on, who regularly carry out excavations in this area, to try to find the tomb of Ankhesenamon there … Its discovery would, most certainly, bring many answers and clarifications on this “pivotal” period which still retains large grey areas …

Marie Grillot


Belzoni, Giovanni Battista. Narrative of the Operations and Recent Discoveries within the Pyramids, Temples, Tombs, and Excavations, in Egypt and Nubia. London: Murray, 1820. Pp. 123-124.

Tomb of Aÿ – KV 23 – Thierry Benderitter – osirisnet

Luxor, Tombs, Temples and Museums, Kent Weeks, White Star Publishers, 2005

The Valley of the Kings, Alberto Sillioti, Gründ, 1996

Tutankhamun, Marc Gabolde, Pygmalion, 2015

Osiris and the sacred bricks, BIFAO 112 (2012), p. 215-224 Elka Koleva-Ivanov

6 thoughts on “The Tomb of Pharaoh Aÿ, The Successor of Tutankhamun

  1. Fantastic! Thank you Aladin for sharing another of Marie’s brilliant Egyptian articles. Not only the tombs themselves but the amazing art on the walls intrigues me. Oh, I cannot begin to imagine the joy of discovering a tomb like this that has remained hidden for thousands of years. And the knowledge of how sacred “death” was to the Eygptian culture back then. I hope you’re having a good weekend, resting and not working. Love and light, Deborah.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. elainemansfield

    I love these tomb paintings. These are so, so golden. I particularly love Babi (Baboon God) associated with Thoth, the God of Scribes (and writers and poets, I assume). After years of studying Egyptian mythology, our class is exploring the time when the Goddess “went underground” and the one Male God took over her powers of Wisdom and Creation. This happened in the Middle East and in Egypt. The Goddess Sophia in the Old Testament still has some connections with the Egyptian Goddess of Wisdom Ma’at, so we’ll exploring the Wisdom books of the Old Testament. It’s slow going. We miss the beauty of the tomb paintings of the Gods and Goddesses since images of the God or of Sophia were considered sacrilegious. I’ll also add that humans have been at war with each other throughout most of history, just like now–and it’s discouraging. Thanks for sharing this beauty.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s always nice to read your experience and knowledge about your studies in this fascinating field, my dear Elaine. Thank you so much for that. And I must say, I like the Old Testament and the Goddess Sophia tell. Love and peace, dear friend. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

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