KV23 is the Theban tomb of Ay, the penultimate pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. Ay rose to prominence under Akhenaten and was permitted to build himself a tomb at Amarna. By this stage, he had risen to the very high rank of ‘Overseer of all of the horses of his Majesty’. He rose again to become Chief Vizier under Tutankhamun and acted as his advisor along with the General Horemheb. When Tutankhamun died without an heir, Ay took advantage of the power vacuum and quickly assumed the throne.
There are many theories surrounding Ay’s involvement in Tutankhamun’s death. It is widely accepted that Horemheb intended to succeed Tutakhamun but Ay managed to seize the throne instead. Horemheb finally because king upon the death of Ay. A campaign of damnatio memoriae (damnation of memory) was carried out and the images and cartouches of Ay were defaced (below).
It is not certain whether KV23 was originally intended for Ay. Some scholars believe that the tomb was originally intended for Amenhotep IV, Smenkhare, or Tutankhamun. Whoever it was intended for, it was the last tomb used in the Western Valley.
The decoration in the tomb is unusual in the sense that only the burial chamber was decorated which appears to indicate a lack of time. The burial chamber is decorated with scenes from the Amduat and the Book of the Dead.
One scene shows the king fowling in the marshes (below). This is unusual as this type of scene was only used in the tombs of nobles and not in royal tombs of the New Kingdom. The scene has strong connotations of rebirth and fertility.
The red granite sarcophagus was found broken into fragments. This was almost certainly part of the campaign of damnatio memoriae. It was reconstructed and returned to the tomb in 1994 (facing the wrong way). Ay’s mummy has not yet been found.
Bibliography and further reading:
Theban Mapping Project – KV23: http://www.thebanmappingproject.com/sites/browse_tomb_837.html – including photographs, description and tomb plans.
Tour Egypt – KV23, The Tomb of Ay in the Valley of the Kings: http://m.touregypt.net/featurestories/ayt.htm – including images and description.
Osirisnet – Ay: http://www.osirisnet.net/tombes/pharaons/ay/e_ay_01.htm – including images, description, tomb plans, and a virtual tour of the tomb.
Reeves, N & Wilkinson, R.H. 1996. The Complete Valley of the Kings. Thames and Hudson: London.