Comparative Guts

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Canopic Jar Representing the Deity Qebehsenuef

Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art

During mummification, the internal organs (excluding the heart, which was generally left in place) were taken out of the body and placed in special containers known in Egyptology as canopic jars. Traditionally, the four canopic jars were connected to four mythological figures known as the Sons of Horus, often reflected iconographically by shaping the stoppers of the jars as the heads of these entities. The resulting compartmentalization and personification of the internal organs formed part of the bodily transformation of the deceased into an ancestor modelled on the fate of the god Osiris (the ancestor of Horus and hence also his four sons). The falcon-headed deity Qebehsenuef depicted here was traditionally connected with the intestines, and the jar carrying his effigy was thus intended to contain the intestines after mummification.