Canopic Chest of Shoshenq I

This calcite-alabaster canopic chest and its lid were made for storing the canopic jars of Shoshenq I (943-922 BC), the founder of the 22nd Dynasty of Egypt. The nomen and prenomen cartouches of Shoshenq I are carved on the surface. No trace has yet been found of the tomb of Shoshenq I.

Egyptologists differ over the location of the tomb of Shoshenq I and speculate that he may have been buried somewhere in Tanis. Perhaps in one of the anonymous royal tombs there—or in Bubastis. He is presumed to be the Shishak mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. His exploits are carved on the Bubastite Portal in the Karnak Temple Complex.

Chest for Canopic Jars of Shoshenq I
Chest for Canopic Jars of Shoshenq I

What was the purpose of the canopic chest?

Canopic chests are cases used by ancient Egyptians to contain the internal organs removed during the process of mummification. The Canopic jars usually contained the liver, intestines, lungs, and stomach. There was no jar for the heart: the ancient Egyptians believed it to be the seat of the soul, and so it was left inside the body. The jars protected them so the deceased could bring them on their journey to the Afterlife.

The earliest known canopic chest is the calcite example of Hetepheres, wife of Seneferu of the 4th Dynasty from Giza, and now on display in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo.

This relic is the sole funerary object linked to King Shoshenq I, in 1891 CE. Julius Isaac donated this chest and its lid to the Egyptian Museum of Berlin (now part of the Neues Museum). ÄMB 11000