mercredi 4 septembre 2013

A Cursory Guide To North African Clay Jars

By Gamal Rasheed

Egypt is a country that is known for its excessive practice of rituals. Egyptians observed and performed peculiar and intricate forms of rites and more so as funeral rites. Canopic jars are among the numerous things they utilized to perform rites. During the mummification process, these jars were used for the purpose of preserving the 'viscera' to enable life after death.

Starting from the period of the ancient Egyptian Kingdom till the end of the Egyptian era, these Canopic jars were used. Throughout their use in this era, they were used in numerous ways. The Egyptians used manifold forms of the Canopic jars to place each internal organ, and in fact, every organ was ascribed to a specific Canopic jar with dedication.

It is a common opinion among the people that Canopic jars are related to the Greek legendary tales belonging to Canopus. But Egyptian historians have made it clear that they are two completely different ideologies not related by any means.

Being a traditional custom, four unique Canopic jars were allotted to the deceased. A jar was allotted to an organ based on specifications. The main organs namely, the intestines, the stomach, the liver and the lungs were stored in the jars. Over the centuries, these Canopic jars went through considerable alterations to create a variety of such jars.

During the period of the ancient Egyptian Kingdom, the Canopic jars did have no complicated designs, but were rather simple and covered with lids that were plain. As they approached the first intermediate era, the jars were sculpted with human heads, as a symbol of the dead.

The habit of creating human heads for Canopic jars continued up until the advent of the new Kingdom. It was by the end of the 18th century that this trend was replaced and instead of the human heads the Canopic jars now had lids denoting the four sons of Horus.

The Egyptian people observed the four sons of Hours in a symbolic manner as 'the gods of cardinal compass points'. Every son was divinely employed to safeguard one of the four primary organs taken from the body. In case of dangerous attacks from the outside world, the four sons were to defend one another.

Of the four sons of Horus symbolized on the Canopic jars, the Damutef was a jackal-headed deity appointed to safeguard the stomach. He was also symbolic of the East; he was to be safeguarded by goddess Neith, another deity. Secondly, Qebehsenuef was a falcon-headed deity appointed to safeguard the intestines. This deity was protected by Selket.

The Egyptian deity Hapi was appointed to safeguard the lungs placed in the third jar. Hapi was symbolic of the North; he was to be protected by Nephthys. Imseti, the fourth son of Horus was appointed to guard the liver. He was symbolic of North; he was to be protected by the goddess Isis.

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