Egypt: The Tomb of Ay in the Valley of the Kings

The Tomb of Ay in the Valley of the Kings

The Tomb of Ay in the Valley of the Kings

The tomb of Ay is located in the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes) near the new rest house. This area is known as the West Valley, but is sometimes also called Wadi el-Gurud (Valley of the Monkeys or Baboons), because of a scene in this tomb depicting the twelve Baboon, very similar to a scene in the Tomb of Tutankhamun. In fact, this tomb may have originally been intended for Tutankhamun, but he died unexpectedly early so another, private tomb was quickly enlarged for his burial.It is very possible that both the tomb of Tutankhamun and this one were decorated by the same artists.

Ay's tomb is designated WV 23 and is a fairly simple affair as royal tombs go in the Valley of the Kings. It has a fairly straight axis, though the burial chamber is offset. Typically, tombs of this era usually had corridors that were offset from the axis, so Ay's tomb built in the 18th Dynasty seems to anticipate the stylistic attributes of the 20th Dynasty tombs. It was only recently opened to the public, after the tomb was restored However, it has no pillared halls, or even a ritual shaft, as we find in most royal tombs.

The Tomb of Ay in the Valley of the Kings

The tomb was discovered in the winter of 1816 by Belzoni who carved his name and the date on the rock at the side of the entrance. It had been looted in antiquity, and also seems to have been the object of deliberate mutilation.

The Tomb of Ay in the Valley of the Kings

Upon entering the tomb, a stairway is first encountered, leading to the first corridor. After this corridor is another steep stairway leading to the second corridor. This corridor first leads to a vestibule, and then the burial chamber, which is offset to the right (northeast). Behind the burial chamber is the tombs one storage annex, in this case, often referred to as the canopic chamber.

The Tomb of Ay in the Valley of the Kings

Only the burial chamber is decorated, and even here, the decorations form a simple scheme. However, some of the paintings are both interesting and unusual. Perhaps this tomb is most famous for a bird and hippopotamus hunting scene. Ay, holding decoy ducks, and his first wife, Teye are also depicted within this double scene. Most royal tombs of this period rarely departed from a religious theme.

The Tomb of Ay in the Valley of the Kings

On the southwest wall of the tomb in the top register we find a scene depicting the goddess Nephthys standing behind a boat carrying the nine gods of the Ennead, consisting of Re-Horakhty in front, followed by Atum, Shu, Tefnut, Geb, Nut, Osiris, Isis and Horus. Behind Nephthys is another boat carrying two falcon standards.

On the rear wall (northwest), we find a scene with Ay, sometimes with his ka. He is receiving offerings from Nut and is embraced by Osiris. Turning the corner, on the northeast wall we find the scene of the twelve baboons representing the first stage of the Book of Amduat. Above the entrance to the storage annex is a rare scene depicting the four sons of Horus shown as mummified royal figures holding flails, but not crooks. On the left are Duamutef and Qebhsenuef wearing the crowns of Upper Egypt, while on the right are Amsety and Hapy wearing the crowns of Lower Egypt.

Not much in the way of funerary equipment was found in this tomb. Large fragments of the kings sarcophagus were recovered, but Ay's mummy has never been found. The sarcophagus was at one time moved to the Egyptian Antiquities Museum in Cairo, but after repairs were completed and the tombs burial chamber cleared by Otto Schaden from the University of Minnesota in 1972, the sarcophagus was returned to the tomb. This red quartzite sarcophagus is very similar to Tutankhamun's with carved images of Isis, Nephthys, Selkis and Neith at its corners protecting the deceased.

The Tomb of Ay in the Valley of the Kings

General Site Information

  • Structure: KV 23
  • Location: Valley of the Kings, West Valley, Thebes West Bank, Thebes
  • Owner: Ay
  • Other designations: 1 [Belzoni], 23 [Lepsius], b [Burton], Schai [Prisse d'Avennes and
    L'Hote], W. 2 [Wilkinson], WV 23, WV23
  • Site type: Tomb


  • Axis in degrees: 296.44
  • Axis orientation: Northwest

Site Location

  • Latitude: 25.44 N
  • Longitude: 32.36 E
  • Elevation: 197.49 msl
  • North: 99,267.509
  • East: 93,177.253
  • JOG map reference: NG 36-10
  • Modern governorate: Qena (Qina)
  • Ancient nome: 4th Upper Egypt
  • Surveyed by TMP: Yes


  • Maximum height: 5.44 m
  • Mininum width: 1.51 m
  • Maximum width: 8.89 m
  • Total length: 60.16 m
  • Total area: 212.22 m
  • Total volume: 618.26 m

Additional Tomb Information

  • Entrance location: Base of sheer cliff
  • Owner type: King
  • Entrance type: Staircase
  • Interior layout: Corridors and chambers
  • Axis type: Straight


  • Painting

Categories of Objects Recovered

  • Human remains
  • Sculpture
  • Tomb equipment
  • Vessels
  • Writing equipment


History of Exploration

  • Belzoni, Giovanni Battista (1816): Discovery (made for Henry Salt)
  • Belzoni, Giovanni Battista (1816): Excavation (conducted for Henry Salt)
  • Lepsius, Carl Richard (1824): Epigraphy
  • Wilkinson, John Gardner (1824): Visit
  • Burton, James (1825): Visit
  • Carter, Howard (1908): Excavation (removal of sarcophagus fragments to Cairo for
  • Gaston Maspero, who had them re-assembled and displayed in the Egyptian Museum)
  • Piankoff, Alexandre (1958): Epigraphy
  • Schaden, Otto J. (1972): Excavation (conducted for the University of Minnesota)






Reference Number

Guide to the Valley of the Kings

Siliotti, Alberto


Barnes & Noble Books

ISBN 0-7607-0483-x

Valley of the Kings

Weeks, Kent R.



ISBN 1-5866-3295-7

Valley of the Kings

Heyden, A. Van Der

Al Ahram/Elsevier

Last Updated: June 11th, 2011