One of the most common items of funerary equipment buried with the deceased is a set of four canopic jars. These jars were used from the Old Kingdom through the Ptolemaic Period to house the internal organs of the deceased. The most common materials for these jars is stone, particularly limestone or travertine (alabaster). The Egypt Centre has twelve objects categorised as canopic jars in its collection, most of which are lids. Particularly is W498, which belongs to the God’s Father Psamtek, son of Iahweben (fig. 1). The jar was purchased by Sir Henry Wellcome at Sotheby’s on 13 November 1928 (lot 221), from the collection of Charles James Tabor (1849–1928). But what makes this jar so special?
|Fig. 1: Canopic jar of Psamtek (W498)|
W498 is a travertine canopic jar measuring 47cm in height. Despite the thickness of the vessel, it is still translucent when artificial light is placed against it. The lid of the jar depicts a man, who is commonly associated with Imsety, one of the four sons of Horus who protect the internal organs. However, a lightly incised inscription on the front informs us that the jar is associated with a different son, Qebehsenuef, who has the head of a raptor and usually guards the intestines. Is this a case of the wrong head being placed on the jar, either in antiquity or more modern times? Given that it was common in the Late Period, when this jar dates to, for the full set of jars to have human heads, it is quite possible that this is the right head after all (Dodson 1994). The jar is incised with two columns of hieroglyphs with a spell that invokes Qebehsenuef to protect the contents (fig. 2). The inscription also identifies the owner as the God’s Father Psamtek, son of Iahweben.
|Fig. 2: Inscription on the canopic jar (W498)|
So what do we know of Psamtek, son of Iahweben? The name Psamtek was one of the most common during the Late Period, particularly in the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, with three kings bearing this name. The fact that his canopic jar is in Swansea would indicate that his tomb has been discovered, yet its current location is unknown. Despite this, there is little doubt that it is located beneath the sands of Saqqara where so many of his contemporaries were buried (Stammers 2009). Psamtek was first known from two painted limestone stelae in Leiden (AP 57 & AP 58), which were published by Boeser (1915, 5–6, nos. 14–15, pl. 15, nos. 14–15). The two stelae are almost and provide valuable details about the life of Psamtek (fig. 3). In particular, they provide his date of birth, death, and the number of days between his death and internment in the necropolis (Jurman 2010, 250–252). Additionally, while only his father’s name is recorded on the canopic jar in Swansea, the stelae also tell us that his mother’s name was Ankhenites.
|Fig. 3: Leiden stelae AP 57 & AP 58)|
A third stela and two statues for Psamtek were discovered in 1988 within the New Kingdom cemetery at Saqqara by Sayed Tawfik (Gohary 2009; Handoussa 2009; Radwan 2009). Now in the Imhotep Museum at Saqqara (SQ.CU.149), this stela confirms the length of time that passed between Psamtek’s death and burial. While it is often stated that the mummification process lasted for seventy days, inscriptional evidence clearly indicates that this was not always the case. With Psamtek, the mummification process only lasted for thirty-two days (Jurman 2010, 252).
Birth: regnal year 1, month 3 of šmw, day 1 of Necho II (= 19 November 610 BCE)
Age at death/life-span: 65 years, 10 months, 2 days
Death: regnal year 27, month 4 of prt, day 28 (of Ahmose III = (31 August 544 BCE)
Duration of embalming process: 32 days spent in the pr-nfr
Burial: regnal year 27, month 1 of šmw, day 29 (of Ahmose III = 1 October 544 BCE)
While such details are rare, they provide a valuable insight into life and death of private officials. W498 appears to be the only item of Psamtek’s funerary equipment known, besides the aforementioned stelae. Yet it is possible that the other three jars and shabti figures remain unidentified in museum collections. In fact, an old label (V.15) written on the lid of the jar must relate to a previous collection (fig. 4). If any readers to this blog are familiar with this numbering system or know of other funerary equipment for Psamtek son of Iahweben, I would love to hear!
|Fig. 4: Old number written on the lid|
Boeser, Pieter Adriaan Aart (2015) Die Denkmäler der saïtischen, griechisch-römischen und koptischen Zeit. Beschreibung der Ägyptischen Sammlung des Niederländischen Reichsmuseums der Altertümer in Leiden VII. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.
Dodson, Aidan (1994) The canopic equipment of kings of Egypt. Studies in Egyptology. London: Kegan Paul International.
Gohary, Said (2009) ‘A stela of the god’s father Psametik’. In Die ihr vorbeigehen werdet … Wenn Gräber, Tempel und Statuen sprechen: Gedenkschrift für Prof. Dr. Sayed Tawfik Ahmed, ed. U. Rössler-Köhler and T. Tawfik. Sonderschrift, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Abteilung Kairo 16. Berlin; New York: de Gruyter. 121–124.
Handoussa, Tohfa (2009) ‘New evidence on the duration of mummification’. In Die ihr vorbeigehen werdet … Wenn Gräber, Tempel und Statuen sprechen: Gedenkschrift für Prof. Dr. Sayed Tawfik Ahmed, ed. U. Rössler-Köhler and T. Tawfik. Sonderschrift, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Abteilung Kairo 16. Berlin; New York: de Gruyter. 103–104.
Jurman, Claus (2010) ‘Running with Apis: the Memphite Apis cult as a point of reference for social and religious practice in Late Period elite culture’. In Egypt in transition: social and religious development of Egypt in the first millennium BCE. Proceedings of an international conference, Prague, September 1–4, 2009, ed. L. Bareš, F. Coppens and K. Smoláriková. Prague: Czech Institute of Egyptology, Charles University in Prague. 224–267.
Radwan, Ali (2009) ‘Sayed Tawfik in Saqqara: einiges zu fünf Fundobjekten aus seinen Ausgrabungen’. In Die ihr vorbeigehen werdet … Wenn Gräber, Tempel und Statuen sprechen: Gedenkschrift für Prof. Dr. Sayed Tawfik Ahmed, ed. U. Rössler-Köhler and T. Tawfik. Sonderschrift, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Abteilung Kairo 16. Berlin; New York: de Gruyter. 169–174.
Sotheby & Co. (1928) Catalogue of antiquities, etc., comprising the collection of Prehistoric implements, the property of Miss Carey, Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities, etc., comprising the collection of the late C.J. Tabor, the property of Princess Ghika, the property of Mrs O. Gregory, the property of Mrs A. Belcher, the property of Mrs de Burley Wood, the property of W. Kennett, and other properties, including Indian and South American objects; which will be sold by auction by Sotheby and Co. ... on Monday, the 12th of November, 1928, and following day. London: Sotheby & Co.
Stammers, Michael (2009) The elite late period Egyptian tombs of Memphis. BAR International Series 1903. Oxford: Archaeopress.