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About the image
King and his ka with deities; Imydwat, first hour, scenes 5, 1, 6, excerpts; sarcophagus re-installed in the reverse of its original position, surrounded by modern wood floor and railings. The sarcophagus box is reversed from its original position, but the lid is in its correct original orientation.
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Entryway A

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KV 23 is entered by a rock-cut stairway descending into the talus slope fronting the cliffs on the north side of the wadi. There is a roughly cut overhang next to gate B.

Porter and Moss designation:

A

Architectural Features

Overhang
Steps

Condition

Cutting finished
Excavated
Undecorated

Dimensions

  • Width:

    2.61 m
  • Length:

    6.12 m
  • Area:

    16.08 m2
  • Orientation:

    296.44°

Graffiti

  • Modern European language text:

    "Belzoni," written over the tomb entrance when he discovered it (recently whitewashed, obscuring the graffito) rear (Northwest) wall

Gate B

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Gate B contains a compound jamb.

Porter and Moss designation:

B

Architectural Features

Compound jambs

Condition

Excavated
Cutting finished
Undecorated

Dimensions

  • Height:

    2.65 m
  • Width:

    1.59 m
  • Length:

    0.97 m
  • Area:

    1.54 m2
  • Volume:

    4.08 m3
  • Orientation:

    0° from entryway A

Corridor B

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This sloping corridor has a pair of beam holes near the end. These were to control the descent of the sarcophagus into the tomb.

Porter and Moss designation:

B

Architectural Features

Beam holes

Condition

Cutting finished
Excavated
Undecorated

Dimensions

  • Height:

    2.66 m
  • Width:

    2.64 m
  • Length:

    11.37 m
  • Area:

    29.91 m2
  • Volume:

    79.21 m3
  • Orientation:

    0° from entryway A

Gate C

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The sloped floor of corridor B continues through the gate.

Porter and Moss designation:

C

Condition

Excavated
Cutting finished
Undecorated

Dimensions

  • Height:

    2.39 m
  • Width:

    2.12 m
  • Length:

    1.05 m
  • Area:

    2.23 m2
  • Volume:

    5.33 m3
  • Orientation:

    0° from corridor B

Stairwell C

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Beyond the second gate, a stairwell, flanked at the top by trapezoidal recesses, passes beneath a projecting overhang at its lower end. The steps are badly damaged.

Porter and Moss designation:

C

Architectural Features

Overhang
Recesses
Steps

Condition

Cutting finished
Damaged structurally
Excavated
Undecorated

Dimensions

  • Height:

    5.44 m Irregular
  • Width:

    2.63 m
  • Length:

    7.95 m
  • Area:

    20.73 m2
  • Volume:

    89.43 m3
  • Orientation:

    0° from corridor B

Gate D

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This simple, undecorated gate leads from stairwell C to corridor D.

Porter and Moss designation:

D

Condition

Excavated
Cutting finished
Undecorated

Dimensions

  • Height:

    2.65 m
  • Width:

    2.12 m
  • Length:

    1.05 m
  • Area:

    2.22 m2
  • Volume:

    5.9 m3
  • Orientation:

    0° from stairwell C

Corridor D

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The ceiling and floor of this corridor have a moderate sloping descent. The upper part of the front section of the corridor is uncut.

Porter and Moss designation:

D

Condition

Cutting unfinished
Excavated
Undecorated

Dimensions

  • Height:

    2.64 m
  • Width:

    2.63 m
  • Length:

    13.94 m
  • Area:

    36.63 m2
  • Volume:

    96.68 m3
  • Orientation:

    0° from stairwell C

Chamber E

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Chamber E is the usual location of the well shaft, but here it was not cut through the level floor. There are traces of plaster blocking at the entrance.

Porter and Moss designation:

E

Condition

Cutting unfinished
Excavated
Undecorated

Dimensions

  • Height:

    2.98 m
  • Width:

    4.14 m
  • Length:

    4.01 m
  • Area:

    16.52 m2
  • Volume:

    49.35 m3
  • Orientation:

    0° from corridor D

Gate E

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The undecorated gate leads into chamber E. Its threshold is sloped, while its soffit is level. Traces of rocks and plaster show that the gate was sealed in antiquity.

Porter and Moss designation:

E

Condition

Excavated
Cutting finished
Undecorated

Dimensions

  • Height:

    2.43 m
  • Width:

    2.04 m
  • Length:

    1.05 m
  • Area:

    2.14 m2
  • Volume:

    5.22 m3
  • Orientation:

    0° from corridor D

Burial chamber J

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The long axis of the burial chamber that extends to the northeast is perpendicular to the axis of the preceding chambers. This turn of the axis, in what would have been intended as the pillared chamber (with the pillars removed), suggests that KV 23, if completed, would have followed the usual Dynasty 18 royal tomb plan, with a descent in the floor at the far end of the chamber. A rectangular niche for a magical brick is cut into the center of each wall of burial chamber J, approximately a meter (three feet) above the floor. Four square depressions in the center of the floor served as emplacements for limestone blocks under the corners of the rectangular sarcophagus. This sarcophagus was returned to the chamber from the Egyptian Museum in 1993, although its present orientation is reversed from the original one.
The decoration in burial chamber J, the only decorated chamber in the tomb, is stylistically and thematically similar to that in KV 62. It also contains scenes unique for a royal tomb, showing the king and his wife engaged in activities in a marsh that had apotropaic symbolism.

  • Chamber plan:

    Rectangular
  • Relationship to main tomb axis:

    Perpendicular
  • Chamber layout:

    Flat floor, no pillars
  • Floor:

    One level
  • Ceiling:

    Flat

Porter and Moss designation:

Sarcophagus chamber F

Architectural Features

Magical brick niches
Sarcophagus
Sarcophagus emplacement

Condition

Cutting finished
Decorated
Decoration damaged
Excavated

Dimensions

  • Height:

    3.92 m
  • Width:

    8.89 m
  • Length:

    6.46 m
  • Area:

    57.29 m2
  • Volume:

    225.53 m3
  • Orientation:

    0° from chamber E

Decoration

  • Deceased with family

    Ay and his wife Tiy floating through a papyrus marsh with ducks flying above; Ay, accompanied by Tiy, harpooning a hippopotamus front (Southeast) wall
  • Imydwat

    first hour, scenes 1, 5, 6 right (Northeast) wall
  • Book of the Dead

    spells 130, 144, and vignettes from 141, 142 left (Southwest) wall
  • Deities

    two divine solar boats flanking Nephthys left (Southwest) wall
  • Deities

    Four Sons of Horus flanking an offering table rear (Northwest) wall
  • Deceased with deities

    Ay and his ka received by two forms of Hathor, Nut and Osiris rear (Northwest) wall
  • Deceased

    Ay preparing to hurl a throwstick while holding four live ducks as decoys front (Southeast) wall

Sarcophagus

  • Extant remains:

    Box and lid
  • Sarcophagus form:

    Shrine of Lower Egypt
  • Material:

    Red granite
  • Length:

    2.96 m
  • Width:

    1.2 m
  • Height:

    1.8 m
  • Orientation:

    northeast
  • Emplacement:

    Pit with plinth blocks
  • Comments:

    The sarcophagus box was found in fragments. It was reassembled and returned to the burial chamber in 1994, but in the reverse of its original orientation.
  • Decoration:

  • Deities:
    Neit, Serqet, Isis, Nephthys Box exterior
  • Winged sun disk:
    Box exterior
  • Book of the Dead:
    Box exterior
  • Amuletic representations:
    2 pairs of Horus eyes Lid exterior
  • Prayers and hymns:
    Lid exterior

Gate J

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The gate into the burial chamber is not centered in the rear (northwest) wall of chamber E, but offset to the right.

Porter and Moss designation:

Sarcophagus chamber F

Condition

Excavated
Cutting finished
Undecorated

Dimensions

  • Height:

    2.6 m
  • Width:

    1.92 m
  • Length:

    1.06 m
  • Area:

    2.04 m2
  • Volume:

    5.3 m3
  • Orientation:

    0° from chamber E

Gate Ja

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This low gate lies on the axis of the tomb and leads from chamber J to side chamber Ja.

Porter and Moss designation:

Inner room G

Condition

Excavated
Cutting finished
Undecorated

Dimensions

  • Height:

    2.11 m
  • Width:

    1.52 m
  • Length:

    0.75 m
  • Area:

    1.13 m2
  • Volume:

    2.38 m3
  • Orientation:

    0° from burial chamber J

Side chamber Ja

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Chamber Ja was probably carved secondarily to the original intended plan of the tomb to store the canopic equipment and additional tomb furnishings.

Porter and Moss designation:

Inner room G

Condition

Cutting finished
Excavated
Undecorated

Dimensions

  • Height:

    2.12 m
  • Width:

    5.44 m
  • Length:

    4.39 m
  • Area:

    23.76 m2
  • Volume:

    49.85 m3
  • Orientation:

    0° from burial chamber J

Details

About

The tomb of Ay is located part way up the west branch of the main wadi of the West Valley, beyond KV 24 and KV 25. The tomb consists of an entryway (A), two corridors (B and D) separated by a stairwell (C), a chamber (E), a burial chamber (J), and a single side chamber (Ja). The burial chamber, the only decorated chamber in the tomb, is decorated with scenes from the Imydwat, Book of the Dead, and representations of the king and various deities. The decoration is similar in style and content to that of Ay's predecessor, Tutankhamen.

Noteworthy features:

KV 23 was the last tomb to be used in the West Valley. In burial chamber J, the deceased is shown in a marsh, the only occurrence of this scene in a royal tomb.

Site History

It is generally believed that KV 23 was not originally intended for Ay. Proposed candidates for ownership have included Amenhetep IV, Semenkhkara, and Tutankhamen. It has also been suggested that Tutankhamen was first interred here before being moved to KV 62. Unfortunately, no foundation deposits have been found to support any of these proposals. Although it is not certain if Ay was buried here, remains of some of his funerary equipment have been found in the tomb. At an undetermined date, the images and names of Ay were hacked out from the wall paintings. It may have been at this time, or perhaps earlier, that the southeast side of the sarcophagus was smashed and the lid overturned on the floor. It should be noted that none of the cartouches on the fragments from this side or from the lid show evidence of erasure.

Dating

This site was used during the following period(s):

New Kingdom
Dynasty 18
Ay

Exploration

1816: Excavation
Belzoni, Giovanni Battista
1816: Discovery
Belzoni, Giovanni Battista
1825: Visit
Burton, James
1908: Excavation
Carter, Howard
1958: Epigraphy
Piankoff, Alexandre
1972: Excavation
Schaden, Otto J.
1824: Visit
Wilkinson, John Gardner
1824: Epigraphy
Lepsius, Carl Richard

Conservation

Conservation History

The Supreme Council of Antiquities has restored and re-installed the sarcophagus previously displayed in the Egyptian Museum (in reverse of its original position). It has placed the lid on the sarcophagus box, installed fluorescent lighting in burial chamber J, and installed wooden stairs and walkways in the corridors, as well as railings and a wood floor in the burial chamber. Breaks in the painted plaster have been patched and the surfaces of the undecorated upper corridors whitewashed.

Site Condition

Throughout burial chamber J, parts of the decoration have been lost. In some instances, this is the result of deliberate damage to the figures and names of the king, but there are also areas (e.g., to the right of the entrance) where stone has simply fallen away.

Resources

Articles

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Funerary Compositions

From the end of Dynasty 5 onward, religious texts were inscribed in the burial chambers of royal tombs.

Bibliography

See All

Belzoni, Giovanni Battista.  Narrative of the Operations and Recent Discoveries within the Pyramids, Temples, Tombs, and Excavations, in Egypt and Nubia.  London: Murray, 1820.  Pp. 123-124.

Drenkhan, Rosemarie.  Eine Umbettung Tutanchamuns?  Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts: Abteilung Kairo, 39 (1983): 29-37.

Helck, Wolfgang.  Königsgräbertal.  Wolfgang Helck, Eberhart Otto and Wolfhart Westendorf (eds.).  Lexikon der Ägyptologie.  7 vols. Wiesbaden, 1972-1992. 3: 519.

James, T.G.H.  The Tomb of Ay.  In: Kent R. Weeks (ed.).  The Treasures of the Valley of the Kings: Tombs and Temples of the Theban West Bank in Luxor.  Vercelli: WhiteStar, 2001; Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2001.  Available in English, Italian, French, German, Spanish.  Pp. 172-175.

Lefebure, Eugène.  Les hypogées royaux de Thèbes, seconde division: Notices des hypogées (=Mémoires publiés par les members de la mission archéologie française au Caire 3, 1).  Paris, 1889.  P. 175-176.

Marqués Lopez, José.  El final del periodo de Amarna y el Valle de los Reyes.  Boletin de la Asociación Española de Egiptologia 4-5 (1992-1994): 57-80.

Piankoff, Alexandre.  Les peintures dans la Tombe du roi Ai.  (= Festschrift zum 80. Geburtstag von Hermann Junker =Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts: Abteilung Kairo, 15- 16). Wiesbaden, 1957-1958. 2: 247-251. 

Porter, Bertha and Rosalind Moss.  Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Text, Reliefs, and Paintings. I, 2. The Theban Necropolis: Royal Tombs and Smaller Cemeteries.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964.  Pp. 550-551.

Reeves, Carl Nicholas.  A State Chariot from the Tomb of Ay?  GöttMisz 46 (1981): 11-19.

Measurements

Maximum height:

5.44 m

Minimum width:

1.52 m

Maximum width:

8.89 m

Total length:

60.17 m

Total area:

212.22 m²

Total volume:

618.26 m³

Additional Tomb Information

Owner type:

King

Entrance location:

Base of sheer cliff

Entrance type:

Staircase

Interior layout:

Corridors and chambers

Axis type:

Straight

Decoration

Painting

Categories of Objects Recovered

Human remains
Sculpture
Tomb equipment
Vessels
Writing equipment

Hieroglyphs

Ay

King of Upper and Lower Egypt, The Manifestations of Ra Have Come into Being, The One Who Does Right; Son of Ra, The God's Father Ay, The God Who Rules in Thebes