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In the 18th/19th Dynasty of New Kingdom and later each of the four lids takes the form of a different head - falcon, human, jackal and baboon (denoting the four children of Horus).


The four jars were meant to hold four major organs. These four human organs were identified with specific deities, each of whom was referred to as a genius.  They included the liver, identified with the genius Imsety, one of the four sons of Horus who could claim protection form the goddess Isis, the lungs, identified with a pair of genius, Hapy, the second son of Horus and the goddess Nephthys, the stomach, identified with Horus' third son Duamutef and the goddess Neith, and the intestines, associated with Kebehsenuef, the fourth son of Horus and Selket. Note that the heart was never removed from the body during the mummification process. 


In the 17th Dynasty, there was a change in the traditional coffins used to bury the dead (particularly royalty) in Egypt. No longer were all coffins rectangular, but rather they actually took on the form of the human body. Now, the canopic chests were decorated with the recumbent figure of Anibus, the jackal god of death. The first such examples of canopic chests took on the form of a rectangular coffin, with a back varnished background. Some of these chests have exaggerated vaulted lids, with raised end pieces which wee characteristic of late rectangular coffins.


Early in the 18 dynasty, canopic decoration changed once more, focusing on the image of the four goddesses and their genii. Now, the genii are usually identifiable from the jar tops, shaped as heads. Imsety has a human appearance, while Hapy takes the form of a baboon, Duamutef that of a jackal and Kebehsenuef that of a hawk. At the same time, the chests became more elaborate. Now, rather then simple boxes with flat or vaulted lids, they began to imitate the naos shrines, usually mounted on a sledge. The top section of the box sometimes had a flaring cavetto cornice, while the lid was rounded at the front and sloped down to the rear. Like the coffins and sarcophagi, they were painted with a white background, shifting to a gold tent on black, and then to polychrome on yellow at the very end of the 18th Dynasty. 


As the New Kingdom moved on into its maturity, the lids on the canopic jars seem to have become somewhat more rigged in form, sometimes taking on the form of animal and bird heads. This was apparently due to the more mature nature of the religious evolution surrounding this form of funerary equipment. Prior to this period, the jars were sometimes thought to embody the dead person and at other times that of the relevant genius, a mater of some confusion. This issue was apparently resolved in favor of the genius. During this time ,18th Dynasty, jars were made of various materials including calcite, limestone, pottery, wood and cartonnage. Very often, canopic equipment was made from calcite (Egyptian alabaster)


The New Kingdom saw a divergence between the canopic equipment of royalty and that of the non royals which was not as distinct in prior periods. However, from the reign of Amenhotep II we find an elaborate calcite chest with four jars carved from the box itself, and raised figures of the protective goddesses covering each of the corners of the box. The lids themselves represented the king. This more complex chest was used by the kings of Egyptl until the early part of the 19th Dynasty. 


However, it should be noted that, along with the rest of Egyptian religion, even the customs related to canopic equipment were altered during the reign of the Heretic King, Akhenaten during the 18th Dynasty. Text on these objects provide the names and titles of the king, as well as those of Aten. However, the traditional gods and goddesses of burial are omitted. Here, a hawk, the earliest embodiment of the sun god, acted as protector at the canopic chest's corners. But the divine ladies reappear in the equipment of his probable son, Tutankhamun. 


With Tutankhamun's canopic equipment, the goddesses not only cover the corners of the stone chest, but as gilded wooden statues, they guard the great gilded wooden shrine that enclosed the canopic chest. The chest itself was a solid block with four cylindrical compartments sealed with lids in the shape of the king's head (though probably not of Tutankhamun himself). Within the cylinders of the box were four solid gold miniature coffins which held the packets of viscera. Horemheb and Seti I's canopic chests followed the general design of Tutankhamun's equipment, but with the addition of wings on the arms of the goddesses. RamesseIII's chest was similar, though it also incorporated glass inlays. However, after Ramesses II's reign, it appears that the human lids of the canopic jars were definitively replayed by faunal forms of the genii. However, Merenptah Ramesses II's thirteenth son and heir, no longer displayed corner goddesses


Interestingly, by the early 20th Dynasty, we no longer find canopic chests, but rather large, individual jars bearing the heads of the goddesses. We are not sure how the jars were stored. Only one example of these have been found, belonging to Ramesses IV but there were similar jars found for the burials of sacred Apis and Mnevis bulls 


19th dynasty canopic jars


Sometime around the 21st Dynasty funerary customs took and interesting turn. No longer were the viscera of most mummies interred separately from the body. During the mummification process, they were returned to the body cavity. Still, the customs related to canopic equipment were so strong that jars remained part of the funerary equipment (for the wealthy), but were left empty.  However, by the 22nd Dynasty, the jars were superseded by solid dummy jars, and in at least one example, that of Sheshonq II, the dummy jars held dummy packets of viscera, a true apex of form over function. 


From the 22nd Dynasty on, the text associated with canopic equipment became much simpler, often only naming the deceased and the genius. Now we find much more variety, in both the form and decoration of canopic jars. In the 23rd Dynasty we find this equipment painted with bright polychrome, for example. 


21st and 22nd dynasty

During the 25th Dynasty and the Saite period, the text once more changed. Now, there were formulations and the text varied according to which deities were invoked.  The jar's shapes also tended to become more rotund, with the widest sections lower then in prior examples. However, they all seem to bear the usual faunal genius heads, though there was apparently a brief reversion back to the human heads during the early 27th Dynasty, but we do not posses enough evidence to say that there was any trend in this regard. 


Canopic equipment, which had now been in use for thousands of years, finally came to and end sometime during the Ptoloemaic (Greek) period. A very few Ptolemaic jars are known, but they appear to have been superseded by small but tall chests resembling shrines. They were brightly painted and decorated with images of the genii, and were surmounted by small statues of a squatting hawk. However, even prior to the Roman occupation of  Egypt these too disappeared forever from the funerary practices of the ancients


25th dynasty

These immediately above are all Late Period