Tomb of Ay (WV23)

The tomb of King Ay, Tutankhamun’s successor, is found in the Western Valley which branches off at the entrance to the main Valley of the Kings. Only two completed king’s tombs have been found here to date, the other being the tomb of Amenhotep III (WV22) which has been recently undergoing re-excavation and restoration. The burial place of Ay was discovered in 1816 by Belzoni at which time it appeared to have been plundered and mutilated in antiquity. The king’s mummy has never been found.

The Western Valley

Ay’s tomb is linear in plan and shows more similarity to the Amarna royal tomb and later Theban tombs than to previous Dynasty XVIII structures. Like the earlier tombs it is entered via two staircases and descending corridors which lead to a square vestibule or well room, undecorated and with no shaft.

Here the post Amarna style is evident in the straight axis of the tomb where the well-room leads directly into a large rectangular sarcophagus hall. This may have been originally intended to be a pillared hall which was hurriedly changed to be the burial chamber at the king’s death. This is the only decorated chamber and in a style very similar to that in Tutankhamun’s tomb, possibly by the same artists. The background is the now familiar golden yellow with black hieroglyphs.

On the south wall (to the left of the entrance) we see a barque with standards of Horus, the goddess Nephthys and the ‘Barque of the Ennead’. Below this in vertical columns of text are passages from the Amduat (the Book of What is in the Underworld). The king’s names have all been deliberately erased from this text and all other instances in the tomb.

On the east wall is a scene which is common in private tombs but unique in a New Kingdom royal burial chamber. Pharaoh is seen here with his queen, Tiye, spearing hippopotamus and hunting birds in the marshes in a canoe. Unfortunately the images of the king and queen are lost, but the marshes and birds are still clear.

The north wall is more conventional, depicting passages from the Amduat very similar to those in Tutankhamun’s tomb with twelve baboons representing the twelve hours of the night. The top register shows five deities preceding a barque with Khepri as the rising sun. Ay’s tomb is often called locally the ‘Tomb of the Baboons’ and the Western Valley known as the ‘Valley of the Monkeys’ because of this.

On the west wall, above the entrance to an annex which must have contained the king’s canopic equipment, the ‘Four Sons of Horus’ are shown around an offering table. Two wear the red crown of Lower Egypt and two wear the white crown of Upper Egypt. Further along the west wall the king is shown being embraced by the goddess Hathor; with his ka before Nut who is shown making the ‘nini’ ritual; with his ka receiving life from Hathor as Goddess of the West and finally being embraced by Osiris.

Ay's restored sarcophagus in the burial chamber

The king’s red granite sarcophagus can be seen in the burial chamber, now heavily restored though not in its original orientation. It’s shape and decoration is also similar to Tutankhamun’s with the tutelary deities at the corners.


The tomb of Ay is currently open. If going by taxi you may have to stop at the entrance to the valley to collect the guard with the keys. Tickets cost EGP 25.

~ by Su on February 5, 2009.