Egypt in South Africa

Canopic vases

An integral part of the ancient Egyptian grave assembly are the canopic jars, named after the Homeric character, Canopus, who was the pilot of the ship of King Menelaus of Sparta during the Trojan War. According to legend Canopus was bitten by a serpent on the coast of Egypt and subsequently died. His master erected a monument to him at the mouth of the Nile River, around which the town of Canopus later developed.
The vases are typically made from alabaster, stone, wood or pottery containing the internal organs of the dead and have four shapes representing the ‘Four Sons of Horus’.
  • Hapi, the baboon-headed god representing the north for the lungs and protected by the goddess Nephthys
  • Duamutef, the jackal-headed god representing the east for the stomach and protected by the goddess Neith
  • Imseti, the human-headed god representing the south for the liver and protected by the goddess Isis
  • Qebehsenuef, the falcon-headed god representing the west for the intestines and protected by the goddess Selket.



The canopic vase example is made from alabaster and has a falcon shaped head (Qebehsenuef).