Canopic Jar

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An ancient Egyptian funerary ritual in which four covered vessels of wood, stone, pottery, or faience were used to hold the organs removed during mummification. The embalmed liver, lungs, stomach, and intestines were placed in separate canopic jars. The jars or urns were then placed beside the mummy in the tomb, to be reunited in spirit, subject to the appropriate spells and rituals having been performed. The earliest Canopic jars came into use during the Old Kingdom (c 2575-2130 BC) and had plain lids. During the Middle Kingdom (c 1938-1600 BC), the jars were decorated with sculpted human heads, probably depicting of the deceased. Then from the 19th dynasty until the end of the New Kingdom (1539-1075 BC), the heads represented the four sons of the god Horus (Duamutef, Qebehsenuf, Imset, Hapy). In the 20th dynasty (1190-1075 BC) the practice began of returning the embalmed viscera to the body. The term appears to refer to a Greek demigod, Canopus, venerated in the form of a jar with a human head.

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Canopic jars were crucial components of burial practices throughout various periods of Ancient Egyptian history. These jars served as receptacles for the individually mummified organs of the deceased. The most recognized iterations of these jars featured lids shaped like the heads of protective deities known as the four Sons of Horus. Imsety, depicted with a human head, safeguarded the liver; Hapy, with a baboon head, oversaw the lungs; Duamutef, characterized by a jackal head, was responsible for the stomach; and Qebehsenuef, adorned with a falcon head, attended to the intestines.

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