What organs are put in the Canopic jars?
The Canopic jars usually contained the liver, intestines, lungs, and stomach. The ancient Egyptians believed that these organs would be needed in the afterlife. The jars protected them so the deceased could bring them on their journey to the Afterlife.
Do these Canopic jars have any remains of the human organs they once held?
The jars are currently empty, but they once contained the liver, lungs, intestines, and stomach of a woman named Lady Senebtisi.
Are the hieroglyphs on the front of the jars labels of which body part is inside?
The inscriptions name the deceased, in this case Senebtisi, as well as the god who’s head on the jar. Each of the four gods of the Canopic jars was responsible for a different organ so the organs could identified that way.
What was the purpose of burying organs separately? What was the belief behind this ritual?
I believe it has to do with the logistics of mummifying a body, that it was easier to mummify the internal organs separately. It was certainly more effective to dry out a body once the organs had been removed.
The ancient Egyptians did believe that you still needed your organs in the afterlife which is why they were put into Canopic jars like these and buried with the deceased, packed and ready to go.
Later in Egyptian history, certainly in the Roman period, some people's mummified organs were put back into their bodies so it was all one neat package.
Tell me more.
These are canopic jars with human heads. As a part of the mummification process, vital organs were removed from the deceased and placed in jars such as these, protecting, and preserving them for use in the afterlife.
It was believed that the afterlife was much like the physical world and that you would need your body to function in the same way, which was why such great emphasis was placed on preservation. The inclusion of food and drink offerings in tombs was also linked to this idea.
Was anything ever found in canopic jars?
Yes! Canopic jars are meant to hold the organs of the deceased. Imsety, with a human head, guards the liver; Duamutef, with the head of a jackal or dog, guards the stomach; Hapy, with the head of a baboon, guards the lungs; Qebesenuef, with the head of a falcon, guards the intestines
Thanks. I was thinking the very old organs could be analyzed biologically if any had been found!
Mummies are still ‘in shape’ today but what about the organs? Were the organs of the deceased treated in a similar way to the corpse itself? i.e. with oils and bandages, etc.? Or were they simply placed in jars? What happened when archaeologists opened these jars?
In general, the removed organs were also mummified: dried in salt, anointed with oils, and wrapped in linen before being placed into the Canopic jars.
Scientific archaeological expeditions certainly preserved the organs as well, but they didn't always stay with the jars that found their way to the early antiquities market.
Why do these canopic jars have human faces?
Like many Egyptian deities, the Four Sons of Horus---guardians of the Canopic Jars, have both human and animal-headed forms. Depicting them with their human heads on Canopic jars was typical in the Middle Kingdom period. They are still easily identified by their inscriptions.
So they have never been opened up? You don't know what's inside?
These jars now sit empty in the gallery.
Based on their inscriptions they would have held, from left to right, the mummified liver, lungs, intestines, and stomach of Senebtisi.