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'''Ay''' was the penultimate [[pharaoh]] of [[Ancient Egypt]]'s [[Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt|18th dynasty]]. He held the throne of Egypt for a brief four-year period (1323–1319 BC<ref>Erik Hornung, Rolf Krauss & David Warburton (editors), Ancient Egyptian Chronology (Handbook of Oriental Studies), Brill: 2006, p. 493</ref> or 1327–1323 BC, depending on which chronology is followed), although he was a close advisor to two and perhaps three of the pharaohs who ruled before him and is thought to have been the [[power behind the throne]] during [[Tutankhamun]]'s reign. Ay's ''[[Prenomen (Ancient Egypt)| prenomen]]'' or royal name&mdash;Kheperkheperure&mdash;means "Everlasting are the Manifestations of Ra" while his ''[[nomen (Ancient Egypt)| nomen]]'' ''Ay it-netjer'' reads as "Ay, Father of the God".<ref>Peter Clayton, Chronicle of the Pharaohs, Thames & Hudson Ltd, 1994. p136</ref> Records and monuments that can be clearly attributed to Ay are rare, not only due to his short length of reign, but also because his successor, [[Horemheb]], instigated a campaign of ''[[damnatio memoriae]]'' against him and other pharaohs associated with the unpopular [[Amarna Period]].
==Origins and family==
Ay is believed to have been from [[Akhmim]]. During his short reign, he built a rock cut chapel in Akhmim and dedicated it to the local deity [[Min (god)|Min]]. He may have been the son of the courtier [[Yuya]] and his wife [[Tjuyu]], making him a brother of [[Tiye]] and [[Anen]].<ref name="Aldred 1957">{{cite journal |last1=Aldred |first1=Cyril |title=The End of the El-'Amarna Period |journal=The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology |date=December 1957 |volume=43 |page=33 |doi=10.2307/3855276}}</ref> This connection is based on the fact that both Yuya and Ay came from Akhmim and held the titles 'God's Father' and 'Master of Horses'. A strong physical resemblance has been noted between the mummy of Yuya and surviving statuary depictions of Ay.<ref name="Aldred 1957"/> The mummy of Ay has not been located, although fragmentary skeletal remains recovered from his tomb may represent it,<ref>{{cite journal |last1=Schaden |first1=Otto J. |title=Clearance of the Tomb of King Ay (WV-23) |journal=Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt |date=1984 |volume=21 |page=58 |doi=10.2307/40000956}}</ref> so a more thorough comparison with Yuya cannot be made. Therefore, the theory that he was the son of Yuya rests entirely on circumstantial evidence.
Ay's [[Great Royal Wife]] was [[Tey]], who was known to be the wet nurse to [[Nefertiti]]. It is often theorised that Ay was the father of Nefertiti as a way to explain his title 'God's Father' as it has been argued that the term designates a man whose daughter married the king. However, nowhere are Ay and Tey referred to as the parents of Nefertiti. <ref name="Dijk 1996 31-32">{{cite journal |last1=van Dijk |first1=J. |title=Horemheb and the Struggle for the Throne of Tutankhamun |journal=Bulletin of the Australian Centre for Egyptology |date=1996 |pages=31-3231–32 |url=http://www.jacobusvandijk.nl/docs/BACE_7.pdf |accessdate=15 September 2019}}</ref>
[[Nakhtmin]], Ay's chosen successor, was likely his son or grandson. His mother's name was Iuy, a priestess of Min and Isis in Akhmim.<ref name="Dijk 1996 33">{{cite journal |last1=van Dijk |first1=J. |title=Horemheb and the Struggle for the Throne of Tutankhamun |journal=Bulletin of the Australian Centre for Egyptology |date=1996 |page=33 |url=http://www.jacobusvandijk.nl/docs/BACE_7.pdf |accessdate=15 September 2019}}</ref> She may have been Ay's first wife.
All that is known for certain was that by the time he was permitted to build a tomb for himself ([[Southern Tomb 25]]) at [[Amarna]] during the reign of [[Akhenaten]], he had achieved the title of "Overseer of All the Horses of His Majesty", the highest rank in the elite charioteering division of the army, which was just below the rank of [[General Officer|General]].<ref>Hindley, Marshall. ''Featured Pharaoh: The God's Father Ay'', <cite>Ancient Egypt</cite>, April/May 2006. p. 27–28.</ref> Prior to this promotion he appears to have been first a Troop Commander and then a "regular" Overseer of Horses, titles which were found on a box thought to have been part of the original furnishings for his tomb.<ref name="Sunset 95">Dodson, Aidan. <cite>Amarna Sunset: Nefertiti, Tutankhamun, Ay, Horemheb, and the Egyptian Counter-Reformation</cite>. p. 95 The American University in Cairo Press. 2009, {{ISBN|978-977-416-304-3}}</ref> Other titles listed in this tomb include ''[[Fan-bearer on the Right Side of the King]]'', ''Acting Scribe of the King, beloved by him'', and ''God's Father''. The 'Fan-bearer on the Right Side of the King' was a very important position, and is viewed as showing that the bearer had the 'ear' of the ruler. The final ''God's Father'' title is the one most associated with Ay, and was later incorporated into his royal name when he became pharaoh.<ref name="Sunset 95"/>
This title could mean that he was the father-in-law of the pharaoh, suggesting that he was the son of [[Yuya]] and [[Tjuyu]], thus being a brother or half-brother of [[Tiye]], brother-in-law to [[Amenhotep III]] and the maternal uncle of Akhenaten. Instead, the title may indicate that Ay was the tutor of Tutankhamun.<ref name="Dijk 1996 31-32">{{cite journal |last1=van Dijk |first1=J. |title=Horemheb and the Struggle for the Throne of Tutankhamun |journal=Bulletin of the Australian Centre for Egyptology |date=1996 |pages=31-3231–32 |url=http://www.jacobusvandijk.nl/docs/BACE_7.pdf |accessdate=15 September 2019}}</ref> If Ay was the son of Yuya, who was a senior military officer during the reign of Amenhotep III, then he likely followed in his father's footsteps, finally inheriting his father's military functions upon his death. Alternatively, it could also mean that he may have had a daughter that married the pharaoh Akhenaten, possibly being the father of Akhenaten's chief wife [[Nefertiti]]. Ultimately there is no evidence to definitively prove either hypothesis.<ref name="Sunset 96">Dodson, Aidan. <cite>Amarna Sunset: Nefertiti, Tutankhamun, Ay, Horemheb, and the Egyptian Counter-Reformation</cite>. p96 The American University in Cairo Press. 2009, {{ISBN|978-977-416-304-3}}</ref> The two theories are not mutually exclusive, but either relationship would explain the exalted status to which Ay rose during Akhenaten's [[Amarna period|Amarna interlude]], when the royal family turned their backs on Egypt's traditional gods and experimented, for a dozen years or so, with an early form of [[monotheism]]; an experiment that, whether out of conviction or convenience, Ay appears to have followed under the reign of Akhenaten.
The [[Great Hymn to the Aten]] is also found in his Amarna tomb which was built during his service under Akhenaten. His wife [[Tey]] was born a commoner but was given the title ''Nurse of the Pharaoh's Great Wife''.<ref name="Sunset 96"/> If she were the mother of [[Nefertiti]] she would be expected to have the royal title ''Mother of the Pharaoh's Great Wife'' instead; had Ay been the father of Nefertiti, then Tey would have been her stepmother.<ref name="Sunset 96"/> In several Amarna tomb chapels there is a woman whose name begins with "Mut" who had the title ''Sister of the Pharaoh's Great Wife''. This could also be a daughter of Ay's by his wife Tey, and it is known that his successor Horemheb married a woman with the name Mutnodjimet.<ref name="Sunset 98">Dodson, Aidan.<cite>Amarna Sunset: Nefertiti, Tutankhamun, Ay, Horemheb, and the Egyptian Counter-Reformation</cite>. p. 98 The American University in Cairo Press. 2009, {{ISBN|978-977-416-304-3}}</ref>
Ay's reign was preceded by that of [[Tutankhamun]], who ascended to the throne at the age of eight or nine, at a time of great tension between the new monotheism and the old polytheism. He was assisted in his kingly duties by his predecessor's two closest advisors: [[Vizier (Ancient Egypt)|Grand Vizier]] Ay and General of the Armies [[Horemheb]]. Tutankhamun's nine-year reign, largely under Ay's direction, saw the return of the old gods &ndash; and, with that, the restoration of the power of the Amun priesthood, who had lost their influence over Egypt under Akhenaten.
Egyptologist [[Bob Brier]] suggested that Ay murdered Tutankhamun in order to usurp the throne, a claim which was based on X-ray examinations of the body done in 1968. He also alleged that [[Ankhesenamun]] and the Hittite prince she was about to marry were also murdered at his orders.<ref name="Brier 1998">{{cite book |last1=Brier |first1=Bob |title=The murder of Tutankhamen : a true story |date=1998 |publisher=Putnam |isbn=0399143831 |edition= Hardcover}}</ref> This murder theory was not accepted by all scholars, and further analysis of the x-rays, along with [[CT scan]]s taken in 2005, found no evidence to suggest that Tutankhamun died from a blow to the head as Brier had theorized.<ref name="Boyer et al skull spine">{{cite journal |last1=Boyer |first1=RS |last2=Rodin |first2=EA |last3=Grey |first3=TC |last4=Connolly |first4=RC |title=The skull and cervical spine radiographs of Tutankhamen: a critical appraisal. |journal=AJNR. American journal of neuroradiology |date=2003 |volume=24 |issue=6 |pages=1142-71142–7 |pmid=12812942 |url=http://www.ajnr.org/content/ajnr/24/6/1142.full.pdf |accessdate=15 September 2019}}</ref><ref>{{cite book |last1=Hawass |first1=Zahi |last2=Saleem |first2=Sahar N. |title=Scanning the Pharaohs : CT Imaging of the New Kingdom Royal Mummies |date=2016 |publisher=The American University in Cairo |isbn=978-977-416-673-0 |pages=101–102}}</ref>
In 2010, a team led by [[Zahi Hawass]] reported that the young king had died from a combination of a broken leg, [[malaria]] and [[Köhler disease]]<ref name="Hawass et al 2010 646">{{cite journal |last1=Hawass |first1=Zahi |title=Ancestry and Pathology in King Tutankhamun's Family |journal=JAMA |date=17 February 2010 |volume=303 |issue=7 |pages=638–47 |doi=10.1001/jama.2010.121 |pmid=20159872 |url=http://www.leben-in-luxor.de/docs/Hawass_Ancestry_and_Pathology_joc05008_638_647.pdf |accessdate=27 August 2019}}</ref> but another team from the [[Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine]] in [[Hamburg]] believes his death was caused by [[sickle cell disease]].<ref name="Timmann Meyer 2010">{{cite journal |last1=Timmann |first1=Christian |title=King Tutankhamun’s Family and Demise |journal=JAMA |date=23 June 2010 |volume=303 |issue=24 |pages=2471 |doi=10.1001/jama.2010.822}}</ref>
Ay buried his young predecessor, as depicted on the wall of Tutankhamun's burial chamber. The explicit depiction of a succeeding king conducting the "Opening of the Mouth" ceremony of another is unique; the depictions are usually more generic.<ref name="dodson 2018 94">{{cite book |last1=Dodson |first1=Aidan |title=Amarna sunset : Nefertiti, Tutankhamun, Ay, Horemheb, and the Egyptian counter-reformation |date=2018 |publisher=The American University in Cairo Press |location=New York |isbn=978-977-416-859-8 |page=94 |edition= Revised edition}}</ref>
Ay was buried in the tomb intended for Tutankhamun in the West Valley of the Kings ([[WV23]]), and Tutankhamun was interred in Ay's intended tomb in the East Valley of the Kings ([[KV62]]).
[[File:Royal couple-MAHG 12440-IMG 9577-detail.JPG|thumb|Portrait of King Ay, on display at [[Musée d'Art et d'Histoire (Geneva)|Musée d'Art et d'Histoire of Geneva]]. Detail of a statue of the royal couple of king Ay and Queen Tey, the fragment depciting Tey being a reproduction of a piece now located at the Hermitage in Saint-Petersburg (inv 18477).]]
Prior to his death, Ay designated Nakhtmin to succeed him as pharaoh. However, Ay's succession plan went awry, as Horemheb became the last king of Egypt's 18th Dynasty instead of Nakhtmin. The fact that Nakhtmin was Ay's intended heir is strongly implied by an inscription carved on a dyad funerary statue of Nakhtmin and his spouse which was presumably made during Ay's reign. Nakhtmin is clearly given the titles "Crown Prince" ([[Iry-pat| jrj-pꜥt]]) and "King's Son" ([[wikt:zꜣ-nswt|zꜣ-nswt]]).<ref>Wolfgang Helck, Urkunden der 18. Dynastie: Texte der Hefte 20-21 (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1984), pp. 1908–1910</ref> The only conclusion which can be drawn here is that Nakhtmin was either a son or an adopted son of Ay's, and that Ay was grooming Nakhtmin for the royal succession instead of Horemheb. Egyptologists Aidan Dodson and Dyan Hilton observe that the aforementioned statue:
{{quote|... is broken after the signs for "King's Son of", and there has been considerable debate as to whether it continued to say "Kush", making Nakhtmin a Viceroy of Nubia, or "of his body", making him an actual royal son. Since there is no other evidence for Nakhtmin as a Viceroy—with another man [Paser I][http://euler.slu.edu/Dept/Faculty/bart/egyptianhtml/kings%20and%20Queens/Viceroy_of_Kush_(or_Nubia).html] attested in office at this period as well—the latter suggestion seems the most likely. As Nakhtmin donated items to the burial of Tutankhamun without such a title, it follows that he only became a King's Son subsequently, presumably under Ay. This theory is supported by the evidence of intentional damage to Nakhtmin's statue, since Ay was amongst the Amarna pharaohs whose memories were execrated under later rulers.<ref>Aidan Dodson & Dyan Hilton, The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt, Thames & Hudson, (2004), p. 151</ref>}}
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==Further reading==