Merneferre Ay

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Merneferre Ay (also spelled Aya or Eje) was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the mid 13th Dynasty. The longest reigning pharaoh of the 13th Dynasty, he ruled a likely fragmented Egypt for over 23 years in the early to mid 17th century BC. A pyramidion bearing his name shows that he possibly completed a pyramid, probably located in the necropolis of Memphis.

Ancient Egypt ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa

Ancient Egypt was a civilization of ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in the place that is now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under Menes. The history of ancient Egypt occurred as a series of stable kingdoms, separated by periods of relative instability known as Intermediate Periods: the Old Kingdom of the Early Bronze Age, the Middle Kingdom of the Middle Bronze Age and the New Kingdom of the Late Bronze Age.

Pharaoh Title of Ancient Egyptian rulers

Pharaoh is the common title of the monarchs of ancient Egypt from the First Dynasty until the annexation of Egypt by the Roman Empire in 30 BCE, although the actual term "Pharaoh" was not used contemporaneously for a ruler until Merneptah, c. 1200 BCE. In the early dynasty, ancient Egyptian kings used to have up to three titles, the Horus, the Sedge and Bee (nswt-bjtj) name, and the Two Ladies (nbtj) name. The Golden Horus and nomen and prenomen titles were later added.

Pyramidion capstone of an Egyptian pyramid or obelisk

A pyramidion is the uppermost piece or capstone of an Egyptian pyramid or obelisk, in archaeological parlance. Speakers of the Ancient Egyptian language referred to pyramidia as benbenet and associated the pyramid as a whole with the sacred benben stone. During Egypt's Old Kingdom, pyramidia were generally made of diorite, granite, or fine limestone, then covered in gold or electrum; during the Middle Kingdom and through the end of the pyramid-building era, they were built from granite. A pyramidion was "covered in gold leaf to reflect the rays of the sun"; during Egypt's Middle Kingdom pyramidia were often "inscribed with royal titles and religious symbols".

Contents

Merneferre Ay is the last pharaoh of the 13th dynasty to be attested outside Upper Egypt and in spite of his long reign the number of artefacts attributable to him is comparatively small. This may point to problems in Egypt at the time and indeed, by the end of his reign, "the administration [of the Egyptian state] seems to have completely collapsed". [1] [3] It is possible that the capital of Egypt since the early Middle Kingdom, Itjtawy was abandoned during or shortly after Ay's reign. For this reason, some scholars consider Merneferre Ay to be the last pharaoh of the Middle Kingdom of Egypt.

Upper Egypt strip of land on the Nile valley between Nubia and Lower Egypt

Upper Egypt is the strip of land on both sides of the Nile that extends between Nubia and downriver (northwards) to Lower Egypt.

Itjtawy City in Ancient Egypt

Itjtawy, is the as yet unidentified location of the royal city founded by Twelfth Dynasty Egyptian King Amenemhat I, who ruled from about 1991 BC to 1962 BC, during year 20 of his reign. It is located in the Faiyum region, and its cemeteries were located at Lisht, el-Lahun and Dahshur. The site of Itjtawy may have been chosen due to its proximity to the source of Asiatic incursions into Egypt to help prevent further attacks.

Middle Kingdom of Egypt period in the history of ancient Egypt between about 2000 BC and 1700 BC

The Middle Kingdom of Egypt is the period in the history of ancient Egypt following a period of political division known as the First Intermediate Period. The Middle Kingdom lasted from around 2050 BC to around 1710 BC, stretching from the reunification of Egypt under the reign of Mentuhotep II of the Eleventh Dynasty to the end of the Twelfth Dynasty. The Eleventh Dynasty ruled from Thebes and the Twelfth Dynasty ruled from el-Lisht. Some scholars also include the Thirteenth Dynasty of Egypt wholly into this period as well, in which case the Middle Kingdom would finish around 1650, while others only include it until Merneferre Ay around 1700 BC, last king of this dynasty to be attested in both Upper and Lower Egypt. During the Middle Kingdom period, Osiris became the most important deity in popular religion. The Middle Kingdom was followed by the Second Intermediate Period of Egypt, another period of division that involved foreign invasions of the country by the Hyksos of West Asia.

Chronology

Chronological position

Globular jar of Merneferre Ay, Metropolitan Museum of Art Globular Jar of King Merneferre Aya MET DP354727.jpg
Globular jar of Merneferre Ay, Metropolitan Museum of Art

The relative chronological position of Merneferre Ay as a king of the mid 13th Dynasty is well established by the Turin canon, a king list redacted during the early Ramesside period (12921069 BC) and which serves as the primary historical source for the Second Intermediate Period. The king list records Ay's name on column 8 line 3 (column 6 line 3 in Alan Gardiner's reading of the Turin canon and entry 7.3 in von Beckerath's reading) and establishes that Merneferre Ay was preceded by Wahibre Ibiau and succeeded by Merhotepre Ini, who was possibly his son. [1]

Turin King List ancient Egyptian manuscript

The Turin King List, also known as the Turin Royal Canon, is an ancient Egyptian hieratic papyrus thought to date from the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses II, now in the Museo Egizio in Turin. The papyrus is the most extensive list available of kings compiled by the ancient Egyptians, and is the basis for most chronology before the reign of Ramesses II.

Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt Egyptian dynasty from -1295 to -1186

The Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt is classified as the second Dynasty of the Ancient Egyptian New Kingdom period, lasting from 1292 BC to 1189 BC. The 19th Dynasty and the 20th Dynasty furthermore together constitute an era known as the Ramesside period. This Dynasty was founded by Vizier Ramesses I, whom Pharaoh Horemheb chose as his successor to the throne.

Sir Alan Henderson Gardiner was an English Egyptologist, linguist, philologist, and independent scholar. He is regarded as one of the premier Egyptologists of the early and mid-20th century.

The precise chronological placement of Merneferre Ay varies between scholars, with Jürgen von Beckerath and Aidan Dodson seeing him as the 27th king of the dynasty [4] while Kim Ryholt and Darrell Baker place him in the 32nd and 33rd positions, respectively. [1] [5] Similarly, the absolute datation of Ay's reign is debated and varies by 17 years between Ryholt's 1701–1677 BC [1] and Schneider's 1684–1661 BC. [3]

Jürgen von Beckerath was a German Egyptologist. He was a prolific writer who published countless articles in journals such as Orientalia, Göttinger Miszellen (GM), Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt (JARCE), Archiv für Orientforschung (AfO), and Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur (SAK) among others. Together with Kenneth Kitchen, he is viewed as one of the foremost scholars on the New Kingdom and the Third Intermediate Period of Egypt.

Kim Steven Bardrum Ryholt is a professor of Egyptology at the University of Copenhagen and a specialist on Egyptian history and literature. He is director of the research center Canon and Identity Formation in the Earliest Literate Societies under the University of Copenhagen Programme of Excellence and director of The Papyrus Carlsberg Collection & Project.

Reign length

Until recently, the duration of Merneferre Ay's reign, which is recorded in the Turin canon, was disputed by Jürgen von Beckerath who read the damaged figure on the papyrus fragment as 13 years [6] while both Alan Gardiner and Kenneth Kitchen maintained it should be read as 23 years. [7] [8] The dispute was settled in the latest study of the Turin canon by Kim Ryholt who confirms that Merneferre Ay's reign length as recorded on the papyrus is "23 years, 8 months and 18 days". [1] Ryholt insists that "the tick that distinguishes 20 and 30 from 10 is preserved and beyond dispute. Accordingly, 23 years or, less likely, 33 years must be read." [1] This makes Merneferre Ay the longest-ruling pharaoh of the 13th Dynasty at a time when numerous short-lived kings ruled Egypt.

Kenneth Anderson Kitchen is a British biblical scholar, Ancient Near Eastern historian, and Personal and Brunner Professor Emeritus of Egyptology and Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology, University of Liverpool, England. He is one of the leading experts on the ancient Egyptian Ramesside Period, and the Third Intermediate Period of Egypt, as well as ancient Egyptian chronology, having written over 250 books and journal articles on these and other subjects since the mid-1950s. He has been described by The Times as "the very architect of Egyptian chronology".

Reign and Attestations

Green glazed steatite scarab of Merneferre Ay, British Museum. Scarab Merneferre EA16567 Hall.png
Green glazed steatite scarab of Merneferre Ay, British Museum.

As a king of the mid 13th Dynasty, Merneferre Ay reigned over Middle and Upper Egypt concurrently with the 14th Dynasty, which controlled at least the Eastern Nile Delta. The egyptologists Kim Ryholt and Darrell Baker contend that Mernferre usurped the throne at the expense of his predecessor Wahibre Ibiau. [1] [5] They base this conclusion on the total absence of filiative nomina, that is references to the name of his father on the artefacts attributable to him. [1] They believe that this should have been the case had his father been a pharaoh, and indeed a number of 13th Dynasty kings used filiative nomina. Little is known of Ay's consorts, he was possibly married to Ineni whose scarabs are stylistically similar to those of Ay. [1]

The Fourteenth Dynasty of Egypt was a series of rulers reigning during the Second Intermediate Period over the Nile Delta region of Egypt. It lasted between 75 and 155 years, depending on the scholar. The capital of the dynasty was probably Avaris. The 14th dynasty existed concurrently with the 13th dynasty based in Memphis. The rulers of the 14th dynasty are commonly identified by Egyptologists as being of Canaanite (Semitic) descent, owing to the distinct origins of the names of some of their kings and princes, like Ipqu, Yakbim, Qareh, or Yaqub-Har. Names in relation with Nubia are also recorded in two cases, king Nehesy and queen Tati.

Nile Delta delta formed in Northern Egypt where the Nile River drains into the Mediterranean Sea

The Nile Delta is the delta formed in Northern Egypt where the Nile River spreads out and drains into the Mediterranean Sea. It is one of the world's largest river deltas—from Alexandria in the west to Port Said in the east, it covers 240 km (150 mi) of Mediterranean coastline and is a rich agricultural region. From north to south the delta is approximately 160 km (99 mi) in length. The Delta begins slightly down-river from Cairo.

Wahibre Ibiau Egyptian pharaoh

Wahibre Ibiau was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the 13th Dynasty, who reigned c. 1670 BC for 10 years 8 months and 29 days according to the Turin King List.

Attestations

Merneferre Ay is well attested; no fewer than 62 scarab seals and one cylinder-seal [10] bearing his name are known, 51 of which are of unknown provenance [5] [11] [12] Among the scarabs of known provenance, three are from Lower Egypt, more precisely one from Bubastis and two from Heliopolis. [1] [5] The rest of the scarabs of known provenance are from Abydos, Coptos and Lisht, all localities being in Middle or Upper Egypt. Other attestations of Ay include an obsidian globular jar now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, [13] a ball dedicated to Sobek, [14] an inscribed limestone block, part of a lintel, discovered in 1908 by Georges Legrain in Karnak and a pyramidion . [5] [15] [16]

The pyramidion was confiscated from robbers by the Egyptian police in 1911 at Faqus, close to the ancient city of Avaris. It is carved with the name of Ay and shows him offering to Horus "Lord of heaven", demonstrating that a pyramid was built for him during his long reign. [16] [17] The fact that the pyramidion was probably discovered by the robbers in modern-day Khatana, part of the ancient city of Avaris (modern-day Qantir) is important since it was likely the capital of the 14th Dynasty during Ay's lifetime. Egyptologists believe that the pyramidion originates in fact from Memphis, in the necropolis of which Ay's pyramid must be located. Accordingly, this suggests that the pyramid was looted at the time of the Hyksos invasion c. 1650 BC and the pyramidion taken to Avaris at this moment. [1] [5] This is vindicated by the "damaged text on the pyramidion [which] originally invoked four gods" two of whom were Ptah and Re-Horus (for Ra-Horakhty). The cults of these gods were based in the Memphite necropolis, not in Avaris. [1] Other objects which suffered the same fate include two colossal statues of the 13th Dynasty king Imyremeshaw.

Legacy

Lintel of Merneferre Ay. Merneferre block Legrain.png
Lintel of Merneferre Ay.

Even though Merneferre Ay is well attested, the number of objects attributable to him is relatively small given his nearly 24 year-long reign. [5] This may point to serious problems in Egypt at the time and indeed Ryholt and others believe that by the end of Ay's reign "the administration [of the Egyptian state] seems to have completely collapsed". [1]

Merneferre Ay is the last Egyptian king of the 13th Dynasty who is attested by objects from outside of Upper Egypt. [3] This may indicate the abandonment of the old capital of the Middle Kingdom Itjtawy in favor of Thebes. [18] Daphna Ben Tor believes that this event was triggered by the invasion of the eastern Delta and the Memphite region by Canaanite rulers and indeed some egyptologists believe that by the end of Ay's reign the 13th dynasty had lost control of Lower Egypt including the Delta region and possibly Memphis itself. For these authors, this marks the end of the Middle Kingdom and the beginning of the Second Intermediate Period. [18] This analysis is rejected by Ryholt and Baker however, who note that the stele of Seheqenre Sankhptahi, reigning toward the very end of the 13th Dynasty, strongly suggests that he reigned over Memphis. Unfortunately, the stele is of unknown provenance. [1] [5]

Ay

Merneferre Ay is sometimes confused with Ay, a ruler at the end of the 18th Dynasty (15491292 BC). However, both kings ruled in completely different dynasties and have nothing in common other than a similar name.

Related Research Articles

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'Apepi was a ruler of some part of Lower Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period c. 1650 BC. According to the egyptologists Kim Ryholt and Darrell Baker, 'Apepi was the fifty-first ruler of the 14th Dynasty. As such he would have ruled from Avaris over the eastern Nile Delta and possibly over the Western Delta as well. Alternatively, Jürgen von Beckerath sees 'Apepi as a member of the late 16th Dynasty and a vassal of the Hyksos rulers of the 15th Dynasty.

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 K.S.B. Ryholt: The Political Situation in Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period, c.1800–1550 BC, Carsten Niebuhr Institute Publications, vol. 20. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 1997, excerpts available online here.
  2. Gae Callender: 'The Middle Kingdom Renaissance (c. 20551650 BC) in: Ian Shaw (editor): The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, OUP Oxford (2003), ISBN   978-0192804587.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Thomas Schneider in: Ancient Egyptian Chronology - Edited by Erik Hornung, Rolf Krauss, and David A. Warburton, available online, see p. 181, 497
  4. Jürgen von Beckerath: Handbuch der ägyptischen Königsnamen, Münchner ägyptologische Studien, Heft 49, Mainz : Philip von Zabern, 1999, ISBN   3-8053-2591-6, see p. 9899
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Darrell D. Baker: The Encyclopedia of the Pharaohs: Volume I - Predynastic to the Twentieth Dynasty 3300–1069 BC, Stacey International, ISBN   978-1-905299-37-9, 2008, p. 6566
  6. Jürgen von Beckerath: Untersuchungen zur politischen Geschichte der Zweiten Zwischenzeit in Ägypten, Glückstadt, J.J. Augustin, 1964
  7. Alan Gardiner: The Royal Canon of Turin, Griffith Institute new edition (1988), ISBN   978-0900416484
  8. Kenneth Kitchen: The Basics of Egyptian Chronology in Relation to the Bronze Age at the "High, Middle or Low", University of Göteborg conference, 1987, JSTOR   505957
  9. Harry Reginald Hall: Catalogue of Egyptian scarabs, etc., in the British Museum, vol 1 (1913), available not-in-copyright here, p. 20., scarab is now in London, British Museum EA 16567
  10. Cylinder Seal of King Merneferre Aya, Metropolitan Museum of Art, see the online catalog
  11. Five scarab-seals of Merneferre Ay are now in the Petrie Museum, see three of them on Digital Egypt
  12. Olga Tufnell: Studies on Scarab Seals, vol. II, Aris & Philips, Warminster, 1984, pp. 159161, 181, 184187, 200, 368369, seals No. 31683183, pl. LVLVI.
  13. Globular Jar of King Merneferre Aya, Metropolitan Museum of Art, see the online catalog
  14. Gerard Godron: Deux objets du Moyen-Empire mentionnant Sobek, BIFAO 63 (1965), p. 197200, available online Archived 2014-09-07 at the Wayback Machine .
  15. 1 2 Georges Legrain: Notes d'inspection - Sur le Roi Marnofirrì, in Annales du Service des antiquités de l'Egypte (ASAE) 9 (1908) available not-in-copyright here, p. 276.
  16. 1 2 Labib Habachi: "Khata'na-Qantir: Importance", ASAE 52 (1954) pp. 471479, pl.1617
  17. Labib Habachi: Tell el-Dab'a and Qantir, Osterreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (2001), pp. 172174, no. 18, ISBN   978-3-7001-2986-8
  18. 1 2 Daphna Ben Tor: Sequences and chronology of Second Intermediate Period royal-name scarabs, based on excavated series from Egypt and the Levant, in: The Second Intermediate Period (Thirteenth-Seventeenth Dynasties), Current Research, Future Prospects edited by Marcel Maree, Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta, 192, 2010, p. 91
Preceded by
Wahibre Ibiau
Pharaoh of Egypt
Thirteenth Dynasty
Succeeded by
Merhotepre Ini