Friday, June 27, 2014

Canopic Jars – Part of Mummification to store organs

Canopic Jars
Canopic jars were used by the Ancient Egyptian from the time of the Old Kingdom up till the time of the Late Period or the Ptolemaic Period,as part of the mummification to store four main organs which would be taken out of the body and placed in special containers for the afterlife.

Each of these jars had the head of a different god known as the four sons of Horus and wasof a wide range of materials like pottery, precious stone, calcite, gold, bronze, wood limestone, etc.

Canopic Jars 1

The type of material of the jars depended on the income of the owner and the size of the jars varied from 5 inches to 10 inches. Canopic jars were an important part in the rituals of ancient Egyptians; the most prominent part was the mummification process.

These containers were wide necked in which the internal organs of the deceased person were stored before mummifying the dead and the Egyptian’s belief in afterlife lead them to store the internal soft organs like the stomach, intestines liver and lungs in these jars.

Each of these organs were stored in separate Canopic jars and the heart it is said was left inside the body since the Egyptian believed that the heart was the soul and it was weighed afterlife, to see if the person had led a good life.

Plainly decorated to beautifully designed jars of different Style/Shapes

Canopic Jars 2
Initially there were plainly decorated jars and with passage of time,they gradually changed to beautifully designed jars with different styles and shapes.

There is a lot of debate on the origin of the term `canopic’ which has led some to believe that an ancient Egyptian port called Canopus, east of Alexandria and whose inhabitants worshipped Osiris was the Egyptian god of the dead and that the name canopic had derived from this source.

These jars had lids which were in the shape of a head of one of the minor funerary deities and the jar containing the stomach was protected by the goddess Neith with Duamutef as the patron.

While Qebehsenuef was the patron of the jar containing the intestines, it was protected by goddess Selket, and Goddess Isis protected the jar containing the liver which was patronised by Imseti.

Names of Protective Deities Written on the Jar 

Canopic Jars 3
The god Hapi whose jar had the lungs were protected by the goddess Nephthys and the name of the protective deities were mostly written on the jar with a magic formula to invoke the powers of the gods.

At times the lids of the jars had shapes as their heads where Imsety’s head was of a human, while Hapi’s head was that of a baboon.

 Dyamutef’s head being that of a dog and Qebehsenuf’s that of a falcon.

Canopic Jars 4
The organs which were individually wrapped in linen were placed into canopic jars with consecrated oil poured over them after which the jars were closed and preserved.

The jars were placed in a canopic box or chest and the simple canopic chest having flat or vaulted lids resembled shrines.

The jars were buried together though kept separate from the mummified body and in the pyramids built during the Old Kingdom, these canopic jar were placed often in shallow pit near the sarcophagus and then covered with a slab.

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