Pharaoh AyThe Pharaohs - The People
Noble Ay, whose sister was Queen, rose to become a Vizier and then Pharaoh himself
Inherited the Throne: When he was roughly 60 years old
Ruled for: About 4 years but may have been as long as 8 years – read on to find out why
Reigning Name: Kheperkheperure-Ay, meaning Everlasting are the Manifestations of Re
Throne Name: Ay it-netjer, meaning Ay, Father of the God
Predecessor: Pharaoh Tutankhamun to whom he acted as Vizier
Successor: Pharaoh Horemheb, his son-in-law
General Horemheb was slated to be the next Pharaoh after Tutankhamun but it appears that Vizier Ay outmanoeuvred him and placed himself in the central role as Tutankhamun’s primary mourner and heir.
The first step: it is fairly certain among Egyptologists that it was Pharaoh Ay who arranged to his predecessor’s funeral and burial.
The second step: the depiction of himself as the Officiant Sem Priest for Tutankhamun’s Mummy in the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony only seems to reenforce this point and serves to show that Pharaoh Ay is the only possible successor for the Throne in his eyes. Standardly if any one person is named in the Ceremony then this would be the successor of the Pharaoh who is portrayed as assisting Pharaoh during the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony.
The third step: marry Tutankhamun’s widow, Queen Ankhesenamun, to give further validation to his reign.
Little to nothing is known about Pharaoh Ay’s reign due to the systematic removal or usurpation of Ay’s monuments, statues and cartouches by his successor, Pharaoh Horemheb, and Horemheb’s Ramesside successors. For more details about this, scroll down to the section on Legacy.
Pharaoh Ay would have commenced the build on his own Mortuary Temple in the Theban Valley and a Royal Tomb in the Valley of the Kings, especially as he had already done this in his previous home in Akhetaten.
Historians do know that Pharaoh Ay built a rock cut chapel in Akhmim, the town of his parents, and dedicated it to the local deity Min, giving us further indications that Pharaoh Ay was the brother of Queen Tiye and brother-in-law of Pharaoh Amenhotep III.
We are also aware that Pharaoh Ay intended to pass the Throne on to his son, General Nakhtmin who was immediately raised to the position of Crown Prince on his father’s ascension. To see what we do know about the General, click here.
Death and Tomb
When Pharaoh Ay died, he was buried in KV23 in the Valley of the Kings. This is presumed by most Egyptologists as the Tomb intended to be used by Pharaoh Tutankhamun, but he died before it was completed. His Tomb was attacked by his successor Pharaoh Horemheb shortly after Ay’s internment inside. Pharaoh Horemheb’s workers erased all of Ay’s Cartouches and smashed his Sarcophagus into small pieces. Luckily for us they left the lid of the Sarcophagus intact and so Historians were able to identify Ay’s mummy and his Tomb.
Which includes the most complete copy of the Great Hymn to the Aten found
The Mortuary Temple of Pharaoh Ay, also known as Menmenu, lies adjacent to the site but is in total ruins. The original layout had 2 small columned Halls with their side Chambers and 3 Inner Sanctuaries, but these were usurped and added to by Pharaoh Horemheb, Pharaoh Ay’s successor.
Pharaoh Horemheb added 3 Pylons with their associated Courts and a small Palace area. Some of these additional areas have survived at the very least as a floor plan. There are theories that originally the Mortuary Temple may have been commissioned for Pharaoh Tutankhamun but due to his early demise it was unfinished and then co-opted by his successor Pharaoh Ay.
Pharaoh Ay’s legacy could well have been lost to us today if it were not for the discovery of Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s intact Tomb. Why? Pharaoh Horemheb and his Ramesside successors undertook to remove every Pharaoh between Pharaoh Amenhotep III and Pharaoh Horemheb himself, from the King’s Lists in Egypt. Why? To remove the stain of Pharaoh Akhenaten religious experiment and reprehensible state and international policies from Egypt’s History.
Not only that, Pharaoh Horemheb also carried out a campaign to remove or usurp all of Pharaoh Ay’s monuments, cartouche’s and statues. This included the discretion of Pharaoh Ay’s King’s Valley Tomb not long after his internment inside.