TAA i.3.5.1-7
Canopic Equipment notes

The Canopic equipment, stood against the centre of the east wall of the Treasury, includes a wooden canopy supported by four corner posts upon a wooden sledge; under the canopy a wooden shrine-shaped chest and four free-standing wooden statuettes of the tutelary goddesses Isis, Nephthys, Neith and Selket; concealed under the chest an alabaster (calcite) shrine-shaped lidded box standing upon a small wooden sledge and housing four jar-like receptacles; in each of the four receptacles a miniature gold coffin containing the viscera of the king preserved mummiform.

The canopy, chest and the lidded box faced west.

The importance of this Canopic equipment being nearly as great as the burial of the king, I do not think I shall be wasting time if I devote some few lines to a more or less detailed description of its component parts. But, first, let us understand its significance. In the ritual of mummification, especially at this period, the viscera were removed from the body, preserved separately, and placed in four special receptacles generally known as Canopic jars. These were assigned to the care of the four tutelary goddesses Isis, Nephtys, Neith and Selket, whose duty it was to protect the four sons of Horus - the genii Imsety, Hepy, Dua-mutef and Qebeh-senwef - who, according to the ancient myth, having succoured Osiris in his misfortunes and saved him from hunger and thirst, were called upon to do the same for the dead. However, judging from the inscriptions upon this Canopic equipment, the viscera were not alone confided to the care of the four tutelary goddesses and their genii, they were also under the protection of Geb, Nut, Anubis, Atum, Ptah-seker-Osiris and a falcon god who guard the dead.

The canopy, some two metres in height, of carved wood and completely overlaid with gesso and gilded with thin gold-foil, is constructed shrine-like in form. The covering, supported by four corner angle-posts, take the form of the entablature, i.e. the architrave, torus-moulding and cavetto-cornice, with a pent-like roof and parapet of solar uraeii. The solar uraeii, backed with a screen of linen, are inlaid with lapis-blue, haematite-red and turquoise-blue glass: their heads of dark-blue glazed pottery have eye-sockets and eyes of copper and glass respectively. The corner-posts, inscribed on both sides with the titulary and epithets in laudation of the king, are tenoned and morticed to the architrave and the heavy wooden sledge which acts as a pedestal.

The wooden chest under canopy takes also the form of a shrine. It has the usual entablature, a pent-like roof, a parapet of solar uraeii surmounting the cornice and panelled sides. It stands 136 cms. in height and measures some 90 cms. square at the base. As its purpose was to conceal the Canopic box, it is bottomless and hence tenoned and morticed to the sledge of the canopy. Its exterior surfaces are completely overlaid with gesso and gilded with a thin gold-foil: the interior surfaces are coated with a black resinous material. The solar uraeii of the parapet are backed with a screen of linen and are similar in detail to those on the canopy. Upon each of the four sides of the chest a tutelary goddess and her genius are depicted accompanied with inscriptions proper to each and uniform in character. On the west side (front) are the speeches spoken by Isis and Imsety; on the south side are those of Nephthys and Hepy; on the north side are those of Neith and Dua-mutef and the god Geb; and lastly on the east side (back) those of (?) Selket and Qebeh-senwef, Atum and Ptah-seker-Osiris (the name of the goddess is not mentioned). Inscribed on the upper surface of the roof are the speeches of Nut, Imsety and Hepy, and the imakhy-formulae of Geb, a falcon god, Anubis, Dua-mutef and Qebeh-senwef.

Surrounding the chest, free-standing, are statuettes of the four tutelary goddesses. One guards the chest on each of its four sides, but while they face the chest, an additional note of realism is imparted by these statuettes, for their heads are represented turned sideways, looking over their shoulders, as though to watch against surprise. These gracious little figures with outstretched protective arms are carved of wood, overlaid with gesso, and are gilded with gold-foil. From the point of view of workmanship they represent the culminating power of Egyptian art in the Eighteenth Dynasty - they are tender in feeling and true to the idea. Including the emblems upon their heads they stand 90 cms. in height, they wear the khat -headdress, the bead usekh-collar round the neck, a close fitting gauffered linen short-sleeved dress, which is fastened in front at the waist by a long wavy and gauffered sash, and draped over the left shoulder is a shawl of gauffered linen. Tenoned and morticed to the sledge of the canopy these statuettes were placed guarding the chest in the following order: the figure of Isis on the west side (front), that of Nephthys on the east side (back), Neith on the north side and Selket on the south side. Their distinctive symbols are carefully marked in black upon the sledge beside the mortice holes to receive them.

The sculptured alabaster box concealed under the wooden chest also takes the form of a shrine upon a sledge. It was covered with a large linen sheet folded over three times. The lid of the box includes part of the frieze, the torus-moulding, a fluted cavetto-cornice and a pent roof. The box includes the lower portion of the frieze, the side panels (slightly set back) and a broad dado. Sculptured in high relief on the four corners of the box are the guardian goddesses, whose protective arms enclasps the sides: Isis on the south-west corner, Nephthys on the north-west corner, Neith on the south-east corner, and Selket on the north-east corner. Inscribed on each panel between the goddesses are the words spoken by them: on the west side the formulae of Isis and Imsety, Nephthys and Hepy; on the south side the formulae of Isis and Imsety, Neith and Qebeh-senwef; on the north side the formulae of Nephthys and Hepy, Selket and Dua-mutef; while on the east side those of Neith and Selket, their genii not being mentioned. Round the frieze beginning on the centre of the west (front) side are speeches of Isis and Nephthys, the genius Hepy only mentioned. On the front and back of the box, above the inscriptions, is a winged solar-disc, and on the fore-part of the pent-roof a kneeling winged figure of Nut. These inscriptions are incised and filled in with a black pigment. Embossed upon the broad gilded dado is an ornament comprising alternate pairs of dad and tet symbols. The wooden sledge, overlaid with gesso and gilded with thin gold-foil, has four handles of bronze thickly plated with sheet silver, they are arranged two on the north and south sides.

The fabric of the linen sheet that covered the box was much deteriorated and discoloured to a dark-brown, it was crumpled and creased, in places it shew finger-marks and stains from some liquid that had been spilt upon it, and it was also splashed with bees-wax, which suggest that it had been employed for some purpose before it was folded over the box.

The lid was firmly secured to the box by the following means: two gold staples (of copper or bronze plated with sheet gold) inserted and plugged into the north and south sides of the frieze of the lid, and corresponding staples inserted and plugged into the upper part of the north and south sides of the box. To these staples a stout cord was tightly bound and sealed with clay which, while plastic, was thrice impressed with a seal. The device of the seal being usual recumbent figure of Anubis over nine prisoners in three rows of three. This device, that of the royal necropolis seal, represents the god Anubis over the nine races of mankind, called by the Egyptians 'The Nine Bows,' so that the significance of the device is that Anubis protects the contents against every possible human intruder (Gardiner, The Tomb of Amenemhet, p.110).

The interior of the box is only partially hollowed out, actually to the depth of 12.5 cms., but sufficiently to imitate the appearance of four rectangular compartments containing each a jar-like receptacle which, in reality are but cylindrical hollows (13 cms. in diam. and 44 cms. deep) excavated in the stone. Unity of plan is here hidden under the mask of diversity - instead of a box containing four separate jars, we have a block of stone in which four cylindrical hollows have been made in the place of jars, and its superficial surfaces sculptured to give it the appearance of a box, of shrine-shape, containing four jars of a common type. Covering each of the jar-like receptacles is a separate human-headded alabaster lid finely sculptured in the likeness of the king, wearing the nemes-headdress and the Nekhebet-Buto insignia upon the forehead. The two lids on the west faced East, while the two on the east faced West. Placed upright in each of the four jar-like receptacles was a miniature gold coffin wrapped in linen, and over them unguents had been poured as in the case of the royal mummy. The coffins faced in the same direction as the human-headed lids covering their receptacles. The unguents poured over them had percolated through the linen wrappings and solidified at the bottom and thus cementing the coffins in their receptacles: a powerful solvent such as pyridine was applied for many days and as much heat as was prudent, but unfortunately they could not be extracted. I was unable to detect sufficient evidence to arrival at any final conclusion as to whether the anointing had taken place in the tomb at the time of burial, or before the equipment was transported to the tomb. However, the human-headed lids were found somewhat displaced when I opened the box, which suggested that the box had been closed and sealed before it was transported to the treasury, which makes me inclined to believe that the anointing did not take place in the tomb where one would have expected such a ceremony to have taken place.

(May 19, 2006)

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