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Canopic jars of Neskhons

 

Height: 36.500 cm (min.)
Height: 36.500 cm (min.)

EA 59197-59200

    Canopic jars of Neskhons

    From Deir el-Bahari, Upper Egypt
    21st Dynasty, 1069-945 BC

    Stone jars made to store the liver, lungs, stomach and intestines of a mummified body

    When a body was preserved as a mummy, the internal organs were taken out quickly after death, as they would rot. All the same, the ancient Egyptians believed that it was important to preserve them alongside the mummified body. The heart, the 'seat of understanding', was left in place. The liver, lungs, stomach and intestines were placed in four different containers.

    The wooden lids of these jars represent the Sons of Horus, four minor gods who protected the organs that they contained. They are: the falcon-headed Qebhsenuef (intestines); the jackal-headed Duamutef (the stomach); the baboon-headed Hapy (the lungs), and the human-headed Imsety (the liver). These were named 'canopic' jars by modern Egyptologists. This mistakenly linked them to Canopus, the captain of the fleet of ships of Menelaus, king of Sparta. Canopus was buried in Egypt after the fall of Troy, and was worshipped locally in the form of a human-headed jar.

    This set of jars belonged to Neskhons, wife of Pinedjem II, the High Priest of Amun. Her name and numerous titles are inscribed on the front. The brightly painted lids are one of the best surviving images of the Sons of Horus.

    T. Richard Blurton (ed.), The enduring image: treasures, exh. cat (British Council, 1997)

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