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The word artifact refers to something that has been made by man. It is usually in the form of a primitive tool or structure. Defined in this manner, an ancient artifact refers to ancient manmade structures or tools. There existed a wide range of artifacts in the ancient civilization. However, in the works of art, the most renowned artifacts included those of the ancient Egypt, Rome, Mesopotamia, the Han Dynasty, the Indus Valley Civilization, the Gupta Empire, as well as the artifacts of the ancient Greece. This paper will primarily focus on the artifacts of the ancient Egypt.
Contrary to the modern Western cultures, where art is often created for entertainment purposes, art in the ancient Egypt was created for formal purposes, viz. religious functions. This implies that Egyptians used artifacts as a platform for achieving spiritual goals in general and depicting their Pharaoh’s power in particular. As such, artifacts in ancient Egypt played a vital role of connecting Egyptians with their god. It is imperative to note that ancient Egypt was one of the kingdoms endowed with numerous artifacts, which included Granary, Hatshepsut, Prancing Horse, Ritual Figure, Canopic Jar Lid, Statuette of Amun, Lotiform Cup, Kushite Pharaoh, Statuette of a Woman, Reliefs from the Tomb of Nes-peka-shuty, the God Horus Protecting King Nectanebo II, Pectoral of Princess Sit-Hathor-yunet, and the Ushabti. All these artifacts served different purposes, but a point of similarity between them was that they were all used for religious functions. It is equally important to note that some of these ancient artifacts exist to-date; they are usually found in tombs and temples. Canopic Jar Lid and Ushabti will form the scope of this study.
These jars were used by the ancient Egyptians to preserve and store their own viscera for the afterlife during the process of mummification,. They were mostly made of pottery or carved from limestone. These jars gained popularity in the time of the Old Kingdom until the time of the late period, or the Ptolemaic period, when the viscera were wrapped and placed with the body. There were several jars used for every organ of the body. The jars were not inscribed but had a plain lid during the Old Kingdom. During the Middle Kingdom, however, inscription became more common and the lids started being made in the form of a human head. At the end of the Nineteenth Dynasty, the lids to each jar depicted one of the sons of Horus being the guardian of the organs. The use of the canopic jars inscribed with human heads started in the first intermediate period. The main reason for using the human heads was to resemble and present the dead. This widespread use of the human-designed lids for the canopic jars had continued until the arrival of the New Egyptian Kingdom where the use of the four sons of Horus was adopted. Each of the sons was divinely designated to safeguard the primary organs from the dead body. In case of a dangerous invasion from outside world, the four sons would defend each other. During the Old Kingdom, beliefs of life and death actively developed. Mummification was practiced in order to preserve and protect the body for the life after death. The importance of the ritual was basically to provide guarantees for survival of both soul and body. This ritual went through many evolution stages and some of the secrets have not yet been revealed fully.
The development of these jars is explained by the belief that there were some organs in the body that would be required in the afterlife. These organs were the liver, lung, intestine, and stomach. This, therefore, required four jars for protection purposes. The ancient Egyptians believed that the body was incomplete without these organs. They would hence be removed from the body, embalmed, wrapped in linen after anointing, and placed in the jars for safety. Imsety guarded the liver, Duamutef the stomach, Hapy the intestine, and Qebhesenef the lower intestine.
Various canopic jars were identified with different gods. The vessels of each jar were made to depict each of the gods by either beautiful sculptures or paintings. The four gods that the jar depicted were either in the form of a hawk, ape, jackal, or man. What was to be placed in each of the jar was identified from the painting and the tops. The size of the neck to the jar varied from five to ten inches. The liver was protected by the man-headed Imsety, baboon-headed Hapy protected the lungs, stomach was protected by the jackal-headed Duamutef, and the falcon-headed Qebehsenuef protected the intestine.
God Horus took the shape of a falcon. The eyes were made in the shape of the sun and moon. He was the earliest royal god and believed to be one of the most important gods in ancient Egypt. He wore a crown as both the god and the heavens and the divine kingship. He was believed to attack and destroy all evils and, therefore, the organs placed in the canopic jar were believed to be safe. There was also a classic variant of the canopic jar, which included an outer chest. This chest was associated with a stone sarcophagus, the inner side of the chest being made of wood, divided into four sections that represented the coffin. The jar would then be placed in the sections of the chest.
The canopic jars had been used for thousands of years until the Ptolemaic Period: the Greek rule in Egypt. There has been few Ptolemaic jars that have been discovered which resembled shrines. These had been, however, barred from funeral ceremonies of the Egyptians before the Roman rule in Egypt.
Ushabti is one of the most easily collectable and interesting artifact from ancient Egypt. These statues have been found from the tombs. They were placed in the tombs in addition to other goods. They were placed there to act as substitute for the deceased ones in case they were required to participate in manual work in the life after death. They were used for a period of almost 2000 years from the middle Kingdom around 1900 BC until towards the end of the Ptolemaic period. Ushabtis varied in size, but were generally small. The small ones mainly covered the floor around a sarcophagus. They are one of the most commonly displayed objects in the Egyptology exhibits. Ushabtis were supposed to act as servants to the deceased and provide services that would be necessitated by the deceased in the underworld. These servants would mysteriously come alive whenever the deceased would be called to do unpleasant jobs.
The major activity of an ancient Egyptian was agriculture. For this reason, their belief of the underworld was that it was agrarian too. Their expectation was that the deceased would be expected to plant in the fields, weed, harvest, and take care of irrigation structure. The buried statues would, therefore, take after the silhouettes of the field workers who were mummified to please god of the dead Osiris. However, their hands laid free of the bandages so as to raise to occasion when called upon to work.
Initially, the ushabti would be carved with the initials of the dead person only, however over time, they began to be embedded with magic invocations to create assurance that the loyal servants would raise to life when required to do the job. A common invocation sounded like, “O shawabti, if the deceased is called upon to work in the next world, answer, here I am; to plough the fields, fill the canals with water and carry the sand of the east to the west”. The Shabti referred to the Persea tree which provided the material from which the statues were made. ‘Ushabati’ is a different name used for the same meant ‘answerer’. The idea behind is that when the dead was called onto work, they would answer for him.
The fact that the ushabti were required to do manual work is believed to be the reason why the Egyptians made them in large numbers. For example, during the new Kingdom, there were as many as 365 of them in the well-established tomb. The beliefs of ancient Egypt were that every Ushabti should serve a day in a year. The pharaoh Taharqa possessed over 1,000 ushabti beautifully stone-carved. The variation in size and materials from which the ushabti were made depended upon the affluence of the buried people. Generally, they were made from faience, but some were carved from wood, terra-cotta, or stone. In case of faience, quality and color of the finish depended on the coarseness of the paste. The ushabti of the poorest quality were small, had minimal features, and were not inscribed.
Similarity in a canopic jar and ushabti is that the both were used in the same period. They were also both used in the tombs and reflected the beliefs by ancient Egyptians on the life after death. Materials used for making them were sometimes the same and the inscription were also common in both cases. Their differences, however, consist in the purpose for which they were made. Whereas thw canopic jars were to preserve the body organs thought to be important in afterlife, the ushabti were to act as servants to the deceased.