fourteenth king of the eighteenth dynasty, New Kingdom. Ay was the successor of Tutankhamun and was responsible for his burial. He was not part of the main royal line but is conjectured to have been a son of Yuya and Tuya, and some claim he was the father of Nefertiti. Ay certainly rose to prominence under Akhenaten, under whom he carried the titles “Overseer of All of His Majesty's Horses,” “Fan-bearer on the Right of the King,” and “Royal Scribe.” The extent to which he was responsible for conceiving or implementing any part of Akhenaten's program is unknowable, but Ay was close enough to Akhenaten to merit a decorated tomb at Tell el-Amarna (tomb 25).

Ay is shown as a fan-bearer to Tutankhamun in a piece of gold leaf found in an unknown tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Here he is given his principal priestly title, “God's Father.” It has been argued that Ay may have taken on royal titles and prerogatives before the death of Tutankhamun, but there is no definite evidence for this. His position under Tutankhamun was evidently a leading one, however, and he may have played a significant role in Tutankhamun's policy of rejecting the Aten heresy and returning to the national gods of Egypt.

Ay was buried in tomb 23 in the western branch of the Valley of the Kings, and his granite sarcophagus remains in the tomb. The style of the painting is very similar to that in the tomb of Tutankhamun. He is also known from a chapel he sponsored at Akhmim. Ay was succeeded by Horemheb, whose reign concluded the eighteenth dynasty. Some have posited a possible coregency between Ay and Horemheb, but there seems little if any positive evidence for this.

Bibliography

  • Redford, Donald B. Akhenaten, The Heretic King. Princeton, 1984.

Steve Vinson