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ID number:  BIRRC-X0880
Institution:  Research and Cultural Collections
Named collection:  Archaeology Collection
Title / Object name:  Canopic Jar
Object type:  Vessel
Culture:  Egyptian
Date made:  c. 1400 BCE
Materials:  Stone, linen and organic
Measurements:  27 x 19 cm
BIRRC-X0880.jpg

In ancient Egypt canopic jars were used to hold the preserved organs of deceased individuals; in each case four jars, with a lid in the form one of the four sons of Horus, Imseti, Duamutef, Hapy, and Qubehsenef , held one of the vital organs, the intestines, stomach, liver, and lungs respectively. During the mummification process these organs were removed from the body, treated with palm wine, natron (a naturally ocurring salt to remove all moisture), and resin and placed into the appropriate jar. The four jars were then placed inside a canopic chest which would be put into the tomb, usually near to the sarcophagus in the burial chamber. The ancient Egyptians did not believe the brain was an important organ (they believed that you thought with you heart rather than your head) and so the brain was disguarded during mummification, whereas the heart was the only organ to remain inside the body as the Egyptians thought it was used as a tool of judgement in the afterlife.
This example of a canopic is made of brownish stone, originally worked to create a smooth outer surface. The jar does not have its original lid, however the inscription on the outer surface implies that the organ (still contained within) should be the liver. Read vertically, top-to-bottom, the hieroglyphs read 'Qubehsenef Puia True of Voice'; revealing the falcon-headed deity who guarded the organ within and the Egyptian man (Puia) who the jar belonged to. The opening of the jar (approximately 10cm in diameter) shows the fine linen bandages covering the organ contained in the cavity. The outer surface of the jar is very worn, with one particular side damaged and with many cracks over the surface area. One side of the jar shows the remains of (spilt) black resin and the base of the jar is very uneven.

Notes:  The canopic jar has been the focus of several projects; firstly it was laser scanned by the VISTA centre in 2003 and was later CAT scanned at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital. These projects aimed to aid research of the object without damaging the jar or its contents - the resin used to treat the organ has hardened overtime so the contents cannot be removed without causing considerably, and irrevisable, damage to the jar itself. The laser scan produced by VISTA helped to confirm the reading of the hieroglyphic inscription whilst the CAT scans revealed a definite mass within the jar's cavity and examined biopsy samples from the contents showed plant material and soft tissue remains.

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