Ay, The power behind Tutankhamun's Throne

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Ay held high office during the reign of Akhenaten. It is considered likely that as the Pharaoh's attention turned to more spiritual matters, it was Ay who increasingly took control of the day to day running of the empire.

After Akhenaten's death Ay maintained his position as the power behind the throne during the short reigns of Smenkhkare and Tutankhamun. After Tutankhamun's death Ay became Pharaoh. He further justified his position by performing the funerary rites on Tutankhamun's mummy, then marrying the child kings widow, Akhensenamun. At this point it would appear that she was the last remaining member of the 'Amarna' bloodline, as none of her sisters are mentioned after the death of Tutankhamun.
Opening of the Mouth, from Tutankhamun's Tomb

One of the few surviving representations of Ay is on the wall of Tutankhamun's tomb, where he is shown performing the 'opening of the mouth' ritual on the dead pharaoh. This was a role traditionally carried out by the dead persons heir, usually the oldest son. At the time of Tutankhamun's death Ay must have already been a comparatively old man, however performing this ritual would have legitimised Ay as the successor.

Ay's reign was a short one in which the reversion to the traditional religion started under his predecessor was continued. After his death Horemheb virtually destroyed or usurped all traces of Ay, with his tomb in the West Valley (WV23) being particularly badly damaged around this time. Like Akhenaten, Ay's sarcophagus was smashed into pieces. Archaeologists have recovered fragments of the Sarcophagus proving that it was destroyed in situ, and not removed for a later ruler.

In the various theories concerning the murder of Tutankhamun, Ay is often named as the prime suspect.


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