Canopic jars were used by ancient Egyptians during the mummification process to store viscerals for the after life, and were commonly made of limestone, pottery, wood, or bronze. These jars were used by ancient Egyptians from the period of the Old Kingdom onwards to store various internal organs removed during the process of mummification. All the viscera were not kept in a single canopic jar, but rather each organ was placed in its own.
The jars were four in number, each charged with the safekeeping of a particular human organ. These four types of the canopic jars also represented the four cardinal points of the compass. Each was associated with one of the four sons of Horus. Duamutef, the jackal-headed jar representing the east, contained the stomach and was protected by the goddess Neith. Qebehsenuef, the falcon-headed jar representing the west, contained the intestines and was protected by the goddess Selket. Hapi, the baboon-headed jar representing the north, contained the lungs and was protected by the goddess Nephthys. Imseti, the human-headed jar representing the south, contained the liver and was protected by the goddess Isis. [1]
Canopic Jars in the Old Kingdom were plain, almost never inscribed, and did not have the heads of the gods as lids.
In addition to hieroglyphics, figures of gods were often hand-painted on the jars. These were the Four sons of Horus, the guardians of the organs.[2]
Occasionally, the jars or the jar lids were made in the shape of a god. Hieroglyphics were inscribed into the base of the jar that reffered to the four sons of Horus.
The Egyptians considered the heart to be the seat of the soul so it was left inside the body instead of being placed in a canopic jar. The Ancient Egyptians believed that in the afterlife the heart would be weighed against the feather of truth by the god Anubis. If it was too heavy from bad deeds it would fed to the monster Ammit.
The brain was not preserved (it was held to be only used for producing mucus), but instead was smashed and pulled through the nose by a long hook. Sometimes the covers of the jars were modelled after (or painted to resemble) the head of Anubis, the god of death/embalming. These jars have been around for years, and surviving examples of them can be seen in museums. The canopic jars were placed inside a canopic chest and buried in tombs together with the sarcophagus of the dead. It was also done because it was believed the dead person would need their organs for the afterlife.
Last modified: Monday, 31 May 2010, 10:55 AM