Abstract: Egyptian canopic jars function as funerary pottery and a symbol of the protection offered by the four Sons of Horus. Although Egypt gets the most recognition, several other ancient cultures have similar pottery used for the dead’s benefit. Greek kraters functioned both as wine mixing pots and pots for liquid offerings for the dead. Both of these ceramics allow the viewer to observe key pieces of their respective cultures’ values, religion, and technology. Known as Egyptian canopic jars, these jars function as a means to preserve the organs of mummies for their afterlife.
The only organs ancient Egyptians thought of as significant were the heart, stomach, lungs, liver, and intestines. However, the heart was left in the body to be weighed against the Ma’at (truth goddess) feather in the afterlife as the deciding factor of the deceased fate: eternal afterlife or devoured by the god Amenti. Ancient Egyptians practiced a seventy day process of preparing the deceased body, therefore following the myth of Osiris the original mummy. Ancient Egyptians used a mixture of baking soda and salt called natron to embalm what they deemed the essential organs for the afterlife.
Knowing that embalming human organs and storing them in separate containers is an efficient way to preserve them canopic jars were created to do just that. The structure of the jar lids tie back into the Egyptian myths. The lids of the canopic jars depict the heads of the Four Sons of Horus sky god. Each corresponds to a part of the body that the Egypt’s felt were significant for the afterlife: Duamutef protector of the stomach, Hapi protector of the lungs, Imsety protector of the liver, and Qebehsenuef protector of the intestines.
These lids were made to look like these gods, so they could protect the organs of the than if only dead until they begin their journey into the afterlife. In turn, these gods were protected by goddesses: Imsety was protected by Isis, the goddess wife of Osiris the original mummy, Duamutef is protected by Neith, goddess of hunting, Hapi is protected by Nephthys, goddess of the night, and Qebehsenuef is protected by Serket the goddess of scorpions. Although this seems redundant, to protect a protector reflects the Egyptian value of balance.
Both sex are being represented in this way, therefore the protection is harmonious and stronger tha male gods were involved. The goddess of Truth who embodies the truth feather, Ma’at, attests to this Egyptian rule of thumb. In addition to being the goddess of truth and justice she is also the counterpart to Isfet the male personification of chaos. In this regard, Egyptian canopic jars have a far deeper connection with the culture’s perception of death and uniform.
However it is the Egyptians value of uniform that limits these canopic jars from revealing any popular deity or fable at the time because all canopic jars feature only the Sons of Horus and at times the mummification of Osiris. In ancient Greek culture there are vases, called kraters that generally function as a pot for mixing wine . However, funerary kraters sole purpose is to give liquid offerings to the dead. They are usually decorated in the horrorvacui paintings style. “Horror-vacui” literally translates to ‘fear of empty space’ in Greek, so these paintings are compact with decorative borders as well as a narrative.
Traditionally, popular Greek myths from the time of its creation decorate the krater. Scenes found on kraters are regularly used by historians to find out more information about Greek mythology. Many that are preserved today represent Hercules twelve trials, or Achilles playing dominoes with Ajax. Narrowing the focus, here is an example of each type of ceramic: the Egyptian blue canopic jars from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Greek Volute krater from the Toledo Museum. Unlike Egyptian canopic jars that consistently depict the Four Sons of Horus.
Greek kraters are the polar opposite of Egyptian canopic jars in this regard. They lack the cookie cutter formula with the gods they depict, unlike canopic jars. One of the most mysterious Greek kraters is the Toledo Krater dating back to 330BCE. Attributed to the Darius painter; what is so perplexing about the scene on this krater is that it depicts Hades shaking hands with Hades, in Hades without his mother Semele. The only known myth of Dionysus in Hades is when he retrieved the soul of his mother as a child.
There are several key indicators proving that the horror-vacui painting is depicting Dionysus in Hades. There are speculations made that this scene was meant to show that both Hades and Dionysus were two kindred spirits categorized between the Olympic gods and the (starts with a c) Underworld gods (source in folder). Information such as this leads to more awareness about ancient Greek mythology and by extension culture. Which in turn, makes this krater much more culturally eye-opening than the Egyptian blue canopic jars. MORE ~ indications of d and hades) (Egyptian technology) However, those same jars outweigh the Volute Krater by revealing more about the technological advancement of the Ancient Egyptians. The Egyptian blue faience ones from the MMA date back to the New Kingdom Dynasty 19-20, or around 1295-1070BCE. Unfortunately, like most ancient works, the exact artist is unknown. As stated above canopic jars are used to house the organs of the deceased. It has a green blue hue to it which is known as Egyptian blue.
By mixing and heating crushed quartz, sand and copper Egyptian blue proved that Egyptians made more scientific advancements for the sake of ceramics than any other ancient civilization known at this point in time. Elements found in copper gave this high tech ceramic its blue tone. The quality of Egyptian blue faience is so top of the line that it functions as a substitute for lapis lazuli, a blue precious stone that is ultra-rare and therefore ultra-expensive. Without the wheel there wouldn’t be the Greek krater, centrifugal force is critical to making these Greek ceramics.
Defined by Christiaan Hygens in 1659, centrifugal force is actually inertia from repeatedly rotating terracotta clay until it spins from its center to form parts of the vase. The vase parts are then pieces together, once baked and cooled a black slip is placed onto the entire vase. The black slip is then scratched off methodically, essentially creating a painting out of the negative space, or red of the pot. This is why it is referred to as red-figure pottery; the scenes and decorations would be the red color of the terracotta clay beneath the black slip.