Relics of Vizier Khay’s pyramid, built from adobe brick, in the courtyard of an older tomb on the Cheikh Abd el-Gourna hill (2/2013 ©Bavay/ULB).
The Egyptian Antiquities Minister, Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim, announced , the discovery of a new pyramid from the Ramses era, found over the course of archaeological research being carried out on the Cheikh Abd el-Gourna hill by a joint University of Liège and Free University of Brussels mission.
Imprints on the monument’s brickwork indicate that the pyramid belonged to a Vizier of Upper and Lower Egypt called Khay, who carried out this function, equivalent to that of a Prime Minister, for some fifteen years during the reign of the Pharaoh Ramses II (around 1279-1213 before the Common Era).
The pyramid measures 12m sideaways and its original height reached 15 metres. The monument, built from adobe brick, was covered with a white coating and capped with a stone pyramidion decorated with the image of the owner worshipping the god Rê-Horakhty. The pyramid was constructed in the courtyard of an older tomb belonging to the deputy of the chancellor Amenhotep, discovered by the Belgian mission in 2009.
Situated on one of the hill’s crests and overlooking the Ramses II (Ramesseum) funerary temple, Khay’s pyramid without a doubt constituted a remarkable fixture in the Theban landscape. The monument was largely destroyed in the 7th-8th centuries of our common era, when the tomb was transformed into a Coptic hermitage.
Pyramids of adobe brick were constructed above the tombs of senior dignitaries during the Ramses era in the Theban necropolis. The Vizier’s tomb is situated immediately below the pyramid, under a modern villager’s house, and remains to be explored.
The discovery is one of extraordinary importance, because the Vizier Khay is well known to Egyptologists through numerous documents. Occupying the highest civil function in the kingdom, Khay was involved in the celebrations of Ramses II’s first six jubilees. He also supervised the community of artisans entrusted with building the royal tombs within the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens. Two statues of the Vizier, today in the Museum of Cairo, come from the Karnak Cachette, discovered in 1903.
During the excavations of the tomb of Amenhotep (TT C3), the mission also discovered magnificent fragments of wall paintings dating from the reign of Thoutmosis III (around 1479-1427 before our common era).
The mission’s work is supported by the University of Liège, the Free University of Brussels, the F.R.S.-FNRS and the Wallonia-Brussels Ministry for Academic and Scientific Research.
The Ancient Egyptian Noble Khay, (Kh-‘-y) was Vizier, in the latter part of the reign of Ramesses II, during the 19th dynasty.
A family stela from Abydos mentions that Khay was the son of Hai and Nub-em-niut. Khay’s father was said to be greatly favored by the Lord of the Two Lands and a Troop Commander of the goodly god. Khay’s mother Nub-em-niut was a chantress of Amun and Lady of the House. Khay’s wife is named Yam.
Khay grew up as the son of the Troop Commander Hai. A stela from Abydos shows that Khay started his career as the First Royal Herald of the Lord of the Two Lands. He was charged with reporting the affairs of Egypt. In year 26 of Ramesses II, Khay was appointed Vizier. He may have succeeded Paser in office. After year 40, Khay was in charge of announcing the sed jubilees held by Ramesses II. In West Silsila a stela pronounces that
“The Lord of Both Lands, Usermaatre Setepenre, Lord of Crowns, Ramesses II, given life like Re forever. His Majesty decreed that the Hereditary Noble and Count, God’s Father beloved of the God, Guardian of Nekhen, Prophet of Maat, Judge and Dignitary, City-governor and Vizier, Khay, justified, be charged to proclaim the Jubilee festival in the entire land, throughout the South and the North.” The previous sed festivals had been announced by the King’s Son Khaemwaset and Khay both.