The tall jar is composed of fine, banded alabaster, tapering slightly at the top and base. The jar preserves six columns of carefully and beautifully drawn hieroglyphs, engraved and enhanced with black pigment, of which a substantial amount remains.
Giovanni Anastasi (1780 – 1860)
Collection, Anastasi was Consul General of Sweden and Norway in Egypt from
François Lenormant Paris, 23 –
27 June 1857, p. 31, no. 234.
With Kalebjian Brothers, Paris,
French private collection
The epigraphy and the quality of the text indicate a work of the Saite period. However the text gives a version of the 19c canopic formula, which according to Sethe (K. Sethe, ‘Zur Geschichte der Einbalsamierung bei den Ägyptern und einiger damit verbundener Bräuche’, SPAW, Berlin, 1934, p. 12) is unusual on canopics of the 26th dynasty.
‘words spoken by Neith, I spend the morning and night each day to ensure the protection of Duamutef which is in me, the protection of Osiris, the chief chancellor of the god, the sem-priest, the embalmer, the attendant of the secret things of each ouabet, (the place of embalming), the nejem-seti priest (priest of the pleasant smell), Psamtik-men, true of voice; the protection of Duamutef, the Osiris, the chief chancellor of the god, the sem-priest, the embalmer, the attendant of the secret things of each ouabet, (the place of embalming) the nejem-seti priest (priest of the pleasant smell), Psamtik-men, true of voice; it is Duamutef.'
The inscription, with its unusual titles, is fascinating. Olivier Perdu has highlighted the rarity and curious meaning of the final title ndm-sti, which appears specific to Memphis in the Late Period, allowing us to connect Psamtik-men to this city. This suggests that he was buried in Memphis and that his canopic is probably also from the necropolis of Saqqara.
The titles of Psamtik-men all indicate that he was an active and very important individual in the embalming and funerary process. A wonderful feature given that the inscription is actually on a canopic jar. The first title, is ‘chief chancellor’ which indicates he was the head embalmer; the second title, that of the sem priest which refers to the principal performer of the ritual of the opening of the mouth; the third title refers to his being in charge of the actual wrapping of the strips; the fourth title is for ‘the attendant of the secret things of each ouabet’, which refers to the place of embalming. The final and fifth title - the chief subject of Olivier Perdu’s study – is the nejem-seti priest (priest of the pleasant smell).
Perdu highlights a limestone stela (JE 21830) in Cairo, dated to the year XXXVII of Chechong V, which also mentions our title. The stele was found by A. Mariette in the Serapeum of Saqqara, and is dedicated by a certain Änkhefenkhonsou: Porter and Moss, III, 2, Oxford, 1981, p. 788. This stele links the nejem-seti title to the god Anubis indicating that it is a title likely to be worn by embalmers related to the cult of Anubis, located in the Memphite region. These embalmers would have been based at a temple dedicated to Anubis and Perdu points to a likely location: a temple located in the northern part of the Saqqara cemetery where excavations have brought to light finds mostly dating to the Ptolemaic period.
At some point a baboon head (Hapi, another son of Horus) stopper was matched with the jar, which would originally have been surmounted with a jackal head stopper representing Duamutef as indicated by the inscription.
This canopic jar is a remarkable rediscovery of an extremely fine and important vessel. The alabaster has been carefully chosen with very attractive banding and it has been beautifully inscribed with a substantial amount of excellently preserved text. Indisputably the very rare title of the nejem-seti priest (priest of the pleasant smell), is the most important aspect of this jar. This distinctive and mysterious title has allowed Perdu to reconstruct who Psamtik-men was and where he operated as the chief embalmer.
François Lenormant, Paris,
23-27 June 1857, p. 31, no. 234.
S. Sauneron, ‘Le “chancelier du
dieu” dans son double rôle d’embaumeur et de prête d’Abydos’, BIFAO 51, 1952, p. 149, no. 2.
O. Perdu, ‘Le Prêtre, A l’odeur agreable’, in Textes réunis et édités
par Fl. Doyen, R. Preys & A. Quertinmont, Sur le chemin du Mouseion
d’Alexandrie. Études offertes à Marie-Cécile Bruwier, CENIM 19,
Montpellier, 2018, pp. 229 – 251.
A copy of the Lenormant 1857
sale catalogue in the library of the Egyptian Antiquities Department of the
Louvre Museum preserves a sheet of annotations by Theodule Devéria
(1831-1871) recording the inscription on this jar. This is noted by Sauneron
in his study on the title btmw-ntr: S. Sauneron, ‘Le “chancelier du dieu”
dans son double rôle d’embaumeur et de prête d’Abydos’, BIFAO 51, 1952, p. 149, no. 2.