Canopic Jar of Ahmose

LL 5136


When an ancient Egyptian called Ahmose was mummified, his internal organs were removed to prevent the body from rotting. They were dried, wrapped in textile and placed in a canopic jar and buried with Ahmose Each organ was protected by one of the four sons of Horus. This canopic jar is carved from Egyptian alabaster, creamy yellow in colour with horizontal veins. The surface has a very high polish. A deposit of a black shiny substance fills the bottom of the interior cavity. Five columns of an inscription, with incised lines separating the columns and forming a box around the whole inscription, have been roughly pecked out, originally filled with a black sub-stance of which only faint traces remain. From right to left the hieroglyphs read: "Recitation by Isis: 'I destroy evil, I protect, providing safety for Imsety who is within me. The protection of the Osiris, the god's father, sw-priest, wnr- priest in Letopolis, prophet of Amen-ra lord of Khent-nefer, Iah-mes, the son of Pa-di-ptah, born to the lady of the house Ta-[nt]-nefer-tem, justified, is the protection of Imsety. (For) the Osiris, the god's father, sm-priest, wnr-priest in Letopolis, Iah-mes, born to Ta-[nt]-nefer-tem, he is Imsety’". Diameter of base 105 mm; the interior cavity has slightly concave sides; diameter of mouth 94 mm; depth of jar at least 150 mm. The jar is now associated with a jackal-headed lid but the inscription on the jar mentions the tutelary deity the human-headed Imsety, who protected the liver, indicating that the lids were misplaced before Thomas Hope acquired them. Ahmose’s canopic jars are some of the first Egyptian antiquities to be collected by European explorers. In 1719 his canopic jars were drawn by Bernard Montaucon (1655 - 1741) a French Benedictine monk and scholar who published them in his book, ‘L'antiquité expliquée et representée en figures’ (later translated into English ‘Antiquity Explained and Represented in Sculptures’). Each jar is inscribed for a priest called Ahmose, whose name means ‘the moon has given birth’. The two other jars from Ahmose’s set of four are now in the collections of the Louvre Museum in Paris and the Calvet Museum in Avignon. Purchased at Sotheby's 23-24 July 1917 (Hope sale) Lot 172/4: "FOUR CANOPIC JARS IN ALABASTER, comprising Mestha, the man-headed - 17 in. high ; Hapi, the ape-headed - 14 in. high ; Qebhsennuf, the hawk-headed - 13 in. high ; and Tuamutef, the jackal-headed - 15 in. high. All the vases, with the exception of the first, fully inscribed - a remarkable set of the highest importance [PLATE IV.]".