Canopic Jars: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about canopic jars.

  • Canopic jars were used in Ancient Egypt to store the organs of dead pharaohs. They were used during the mummification process, in which the body was preserved by keeping removing moisture.
  • Egyptian pharaohs and other important people were buried with four canopic jars, one each for the intestines, stomach, liver or lugs. The heart was thought to be the soul of the body and was left inside the corpse.
  • The jars were often made from pottery or wood, or were carved from limestone. Today, canopic jars can be seen in many museums, including the British Museum in London.
  • They were used between about 2680 BC and about 300 BC. The designs of the jars changed over time, and later jars had long inscriptions carved on them.
  • By about 2200 BC the jars had lids carved with the faces of the dead person. They were also sometimes painted with the face of Anubis, the god of embalming and death.
  • Later canopic jars also had lids or stoppers, carved with one of the four sons of Horus. These four gods looked after the organs of the dead person during their journey to the afterlife.
  • Hapi, the baboon-headed god had the job of guarding the lungs. He was usually shown as facing north, and his name may have had something to do with steering a boat.
  • Duamutef, the jackal-headed god, guarded the dead person’s stomach. According to Egyptian legend, he was born on a lily flower in the ocean.
  • Imseti was a human-headed god and was protected by Isis, the goddess of marriage and health. Imseti was responsible for watching over the dead person’s liver.
  • Qebehsenuef was a falcon headed god and was responsible for guarding the intestines. He was protected by the goddess Serket, the goddess of animals, magic, medicine and stings and bites.

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