Tuesday, October 4, 2016

canopic jars

Google images [real canopic jars]

You can buy these on eBay and such but none of them come close to the real thing. It's disappointing. I saw the jars pictured below elsewhere and thought, "Hey, that's rather good."  Too bad we cannot find anything nearly this authentic online.

Sorry. I couldn't resist. Look, sometimes it's just hard to be serious, alright? 

The word “canopic” is not Egyptian. It comes from Greek by way of misunderstanding. One of their heroes was worshiped at a place named for him in the form of a jar. The ancient Greeks traveling to Egypt saw these jars and made the connection with their own myth and the name stuck. 

Mummification is a process of drying out the body using natron, a desiccating material common in Egypt, however, it doesn’t work on all the sloppy wet internal organs. And, as the rite is applied to people of importance then the internal organs couldn’t be just tossed in the compost heap like the insignificant gushy brain.

The first known version of canopic equipment was a segmented box that held the pharaoh’s bundled internal organs that was found in paving block near the sarcophagus of Khafre at the second pyramid of Giza.

The first boxes were made of wood then by the 4th Dynasty organs were placed in pottery jars or simple stone jars. The cases that held the box that held the jars were cut from stone. These stone boxes were sunk into pits in the floor at a specific cardinal point in the chamber with the sarcophagus. 

During the First Intermediate Period where order broke down at the end of the Old Kingdom rule was divided by two competing powers a change occurred to the canopic jars where the lids of the jars inside the box changed from flat lids or simple domes to the shape human heads with cartonnage masks, a material made from papyrus and linen and plaster painted to resemble human faces. The form of the boxes were also elaborated from simple chest with the name of the deceased to the shape of a coffin with inscribed text all around it to link more completely the chest with the sarcophagus. The form was settled by the end of the Middle Kingdom. So, with exceptions, the form of most pharaonic equipment consisted of a stone outer chest closely matching the sarcophagus with an inner wooden chest to comport with the coffin holding four jars. 

The four jars held the four main body organs identified with the sons of Horus. The hieroglyphic inscriptions identified them. The four gods protecting the organs were themselves protected by goddesses.

The liver was protected by Imsety, protected by Isis
The lungs were protected by Hapy, protected by Nephthys
The stomach was protected by Duamutef, protected by Neith
The intestines were protected by Kebehsenuef, protected by Selket

The inscriptions on the box invoked the protection of the goddesses and proclaimed the honor of the deceased. 

At the 18th Dynasty the lids to the jars took the shape of their protectors so now the contents can be identified by their lids. 

Hapy is a baboon.
Duamutef is a jackel
Kebehsenuef is a hawk
Imsety is human form

The chests were elaborated to the shape of a shrine on a sled. 

The heretic king’s canopic equipment changed dramatically on several points. In the case of King Tut, the alabaster chest holds alabaster jars that are all representations of the king that contain exquisite mini gold coffins containing the internal organs. These tiny coffins are masterpieces on par with his three coffins. The alabaster chest is placed inside a separate shrine on a sled.

Later, all this broke down and canopic jars were not stored in chests anymore and eventually the viscera were mummified separately and returned to the body cavity. 

One of Tut's four canopic jars.
I stood in front of one of these jars completely mesmerized. I went back five more times. Inside both sides are filled with vertical inscriptions. They're quite astonishing.

Tut's canopic coffin holders.

Tut's shrine on a sled that held his canopic chest.

Tomb raiders! Sacrilege! We went in there and just tore all this up. We have no respect at all. None.  Like it's all just a matter of interest to us.  


chickelit said...

Mummification is a process of drying out the body using natron, a desiccating material common in Egypt, however, it doesn’t work on all the sloppy wet internal organs.

Natron is a mixture of sodium salts, NaCO3 and NaHCO3 having various degrees of dryness. NaHCO3 is more commonly called baking soda. The name "natron" survives in the Periodic Table, "Na" being the symbol for sodium. Sodium was called natrium by everyone up until Sir Humphry Davy was allowed to rename the element. He chose the name "sodium" because he made gobs of the liquid metal by zapping caustic soda with an electrode. The Germans were not impressed and still call the metal "Natrium." There is parallel story behind the renaming of potassium from the older name "kalium", once again by Davy. Davy was Byronic scientist. link

Sixty Grit said...


I was fortunate enough to see the Tut exhibit three times - I remember the canopic jars, they were very nicely made.

But what amazed me most the Tut's gold mask - it was worked so well and polished far beyond what I imagined possible given the time frame in which it was made. I spent a lot of time just staring at it - it really was enthralling.

chickelit said...

"Kalium" is recognizable in our word alkali which comes from the Arabic al-kali. In fact, the word "chemistry" is related to alchemy or al-khemi -- words that the Muslim sort of got 'gypt'd out of. These are the sorts of Muslim contributions to science which our President wants us to celebrate.

chickelit said...

What did the tut-tutting Frenchman reply when asked what we have in common with ancient Egypt?

chickelit said...

He said: tout en commun

I'll be here toute la semaine.

Sixty Grit said...

Huh, I thought he said "We shoot zee nose off zee stat-ewe, now eet does not know we sphinx".

Goes to show what I know about history, eh?

Evi L. Bloggerlady said...

Where does Hillary Clinton keep her canonic jar with Tim Kaine's balls?

Evi L. Bloggerlady said...

canopic jar...I hate this automatic re-speller