In ancient Egyptian funerary ritual, a covered vessel of wood, stone, pottery, or faience containing the embalmed viscera removed from a body during mummification. First used during the Old Kingdom (circa 2575–circa 2130 BCE), the jars became more elaborate during the Middle Kingdom (circa 1938–circa 1630 BCE), when their lids were decorated with sculpted human heads (probably representations of the deceased). From the 19th dynasty until the end of the New Kingdom (1539–1075 BCE), the heads represented the four sons of Horus. During the 20th dynasty (1190–1075 BCE), the practice began of returning the viscera to the body, and the art of canopic jars declined.
Learn more about canopic jar with a free trial on Britannica.com.