What are Canopic Jars? - Ancient Egypt's Mummies
Welcome to Quatr.us Study Guides!

What are Canopic Jars?

Canopic Jars
Canopic Jars from Egypt
(Vatican Museum, Rome)

January 2017 - When people who lived in ancient Egypt died, if they were rich enough, they paid to have their body made into a mummy to preserve it for the afterlife. In order to make you into a mummy, the undertakers had to take out your guts (otherwise you would rot). This was kind of like cleaning a fish. They took out your liver, your stomach and small intestine, your large intestine, and your lungs. (They left your heart inside your body, because people thought the heart was where your soul lived.)

But what should they do with the guts? You might need them in the afterlife, too. So the undertakers put your guts in jars, each organ in its own jar. We call these jars "canopic jars", and we find thousands of them in Egyptian graves.

Each kind of organ had its own god and goddess to protect it, and the jars showed which god was responsible. These gods were the sons of the Egyptian god of protection and rebirth, Horus. Your liver went in Imsety's jar with the human head on it, and Isis protected that jar. Your lungs went in Hapi's jar with the baboon head on it, and Nephthys protected that jar. Your stomach went in Duamutef's jar with the jackal head on it, and Neith protected it, and finally your large intestine went in Qebehsenuef's jar with a hawk head on it, and Serket protected it.

Learn by doing: Egyptian afterlife project
More about ancient Egyptian mummies
More about the Egyptian god Horus

Bibliography and further reading about mummification:

Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, by Leonard Fisher (1999). For younger kids.

Isis and Osiris, by Geraldine Harris (1997). A retelling of the story for kids.

The Egypt Game (Yearling Newbery), by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (reprinted 1985). A great kids' story about kids who pretend to be Egyptian gods and goddesses.

Religion in Ancient Egypt: Gods, Myths, and Personal Practice, by John Baines, David Silverman, and Leonard Lesko (1991). Pretty hard going, but it will tell you everything you need to know about Egyptian religion.

Isis in the Ancient World, by R.E. Witt (1997). Mostly about the spread of Isis worship to Greece and the Roman Empire.

More about Mummies
More about Weighing Souls
More about ancient Egypt
Quatr.us home


Please help other teachers and students find us: link to this page from your class page.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Check out our new ebook: Short and Simple: Ancient Greek Myths! - just out! Twenty-five easy to read, illustrated stories, from Pandora to Medea, Icarus, and the Trojan Horse (you can read these online as samples). Get it this week for just $14.99, five dollars off the regular price of $19.99.
Cite this page
  • Author: K.E. Carr
  • Title:
  • Site Name: Quatr.us Study Guides
  • Publisher: Quatr.us
  • Date Published:
Did you find what you needed? Ask your teacher to link to this page so other people can use it too! Send it in and win a Quatr.us "Great Page!" award!
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Comment on This Article
Quatr.us is loading comments...
(Comments will appear after moderation, if they are kind and helpful. Feel free to ask questions, and we'll try to answer them.)
Cite this page
  • Carr, K.E. . Quatr.us Study Guides, . Web. 18 August, 2017
ADVERTISEMENT