Imset (Imseti) Canopic Jar Lid, 1500 BCE
Gift of Ann and Henry Brunnier. In the Ann and Henry Brunnier Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Ancient Egypt was likely one of the first civilizations to believe in an afterlife. Beliefs relied heavily on the preservation of the soul, Ka, and the body, Ba. Within this belief system lie the roots of the embalming and mummification practices used to preserve an individual’s body for use in the afterlife.
Vessels, known today as canopic jars, were core components in these practices to contain the internal organs of the deceased. There would typically be four canopic jars per mummified body—one with the head of a baboon (Hapi or Hapy) for the lungs, the head of a jackal (Duamutef) for the stomach, the head of a falcon (Kebechsenef or Qebehsenuef) for the intestines, and one jar, like this one, with a human head (Imset or Imseti) for the liver.
This lid depicts Imset, a god illustrated by the human head and one of four sons of the god Horus. The liver in ancient Egypt was seen as the part of the body containing emotion, a quality that would be needed in the afterlife of the mummified person. This canopic jar lid is made of Travertine (Egyptian alabaster) which was viewed as a sacred mineral in ancient times. This Imset lid to a canopic jar captures the devotion to the gods, the reverence for the body, and the veneration for a life after in the Field of Reeds.