• Imagining History

How To Make Canopic Jars - Ancient Egypt Craft for Kids

Updated: 6 days ago



The Ancient Egyptians believed that when a person died, their body needed to be perfectly preserved in order for them to get to the afterlife. The process of preserving a dead body was called Mummification.


During Mummification, the major organs were removed from the dead body and preserved separately. The organs were then placed in special containers called Canopic Jars.


There were 4 Canopic Jars in total and each one would hold a different organ inside it. The lid of each jar showed the head of a different Egyptian god. But these weren't just any Egyptian gods; they were the 4 Sons of Horus and each of them guarded a specific organ. So it was important not to mix them up and pop the organs in the wrong jars!


So what did the 4 Sons of Horus look like and which organ did they each protect in their jar?

  • Imsety (pronounced im-set-ee) had a human head and looked after the liver

  • Qebehsenuef (pronounced kay-beh-sinoo-uf) had a falcon head and looked after the intestines

  • Hapy (pronounced hah-pee) had a baboon head and looked after the lungs

  • Duamatef (pronounced du-am-u-tef) had a jackal head and looked after the stomach

Once the organs were preserved and in the correct jars, they were placed inside the tomb with the Mummified dead body. Occasionally the jars were popped together inside a chest next to the body. Other times they were spaced around the tomb facing North, South, East and West.


Make Your Own Ancient Egyptian Canopic Jars


You Will Need:


4 Large Yogurt Pots with Lids

Modelling Clay (Air Dry)

Wooden Skewer (optional)

PVA Glue

White Kitchen Roll (or White Paper)

Pencil & Ruler

Paint (various colours, including metallic gold and/or bronze)

Paint Brushes

Superglue (optional)


Step 1 – Mould God Heads

  • Use modelling clay to sculpt the heads of the 4 sons of Horus to place on the lid of each Canopic Jar

To begin:

  • Take a handful of modelling clay and work it with your hands until it is soft and mouldable

  • Roll the clay into a ball, then flatten one side onto the worktop to form a dome shape. Make sure the dome shape covers at least two thirds of your yogurt pot lid. If not add more clay.

  • Repeat these steps as you begin sculpting each new head

  • Note: Air dry clay will start to dry as soon as it is removed from the packaging. Although it takes a long time to dry out completely, you may find any clay that is left out becomes less mouldable if it goes untouched whilst you sculpt other things. Make sure to keep the clay you are not using in a sealed bag or airtight box


Imsety – Human Head:

  • On one side of the dome, push some of the clay towards the centre to create a raised area for the face. Use a wooden skewer to define the edges of the face if required

  • Flatten and smooth the panels on either side of the face with your thumbs

  • Use your little fingers to create two impressions at the top of the face to form the eye sockets

  • Pinch the centre of the face beneath the eye sockets to form a nose

  • Using your nail or a skewer, scrape a small line beneath the nose to form a mouth


Duamutef – Jackal Head:

  • On one side of the dome, push the clay upwards to form a lump on top of the dome – this will be the clay you use to sculpt the head

  • Squeeze the front section of the lump into a snout. We added a small sausage shaped piece of clay horizontally across the ridge of the nose to form a brow (make sure to smooth this in with the rest of the clay so there are no cracks)

  • Use your little fingers to create two impressions just below the brow to form the eye sockets

  • Squeeze two sections at the back of the head up into ears. Again, you may need to add extra clay here to make the ears large and thick enough to stand on their own. We used long flat pieces that we could smooth down into the back of the head and neck to avoid anything falling off when it was dry

Hapi – Baboon Head:

  • On one side of the dome, push some of the clay towards the centre and squeeze it forward into a long snout. Use a skewer to scrape away any excess clay from around the sides to give the snout definition

  • Use your little fingers to create two impressions above the snout to form the eye sockets

  • Pull the clay above the eye sockets forward slightly to form a brow

  • Use your nail or a wooden skewer to scrape a line at the end of the snout to form a nose

  • Flatten and smooth the panels on either side of the face with your thumbs

Qebehsenuef – Falcon Head:

  • On one side of the dome, push some of the clay towards the centre and sculpt it to a point for a beak

  • Flatten the top of the head as it leads to the tip of the beak

  • Push the clay on the front of the face (either side of the beak) upwards into little arches to form the brows

  • Use a skewer to scrape away any excess clay around the sides of the face then flatten and smooth down these panels using your thumbs

To Finish:

  • Leave the clay to dry – this could take up to 5 days

Bonus Points: Spot one of our other history crafts in this pic!

Step 2 – Papier Mache

  • Separate the yogurt pots from their lids

  • Cut rough strips of plain white Kitchen Roll (White Paper works too – we like kitchen roll as it absorbs more glue and gives a textured finish)

  • Mix water and PVA glue in a bowl (2 parts glue to 1 part water)

  • Dip the kitchen roll in the water/glue mixture to coat. Scrape off any excess with your fingers or on the side of the bowl

  • Apply the wet strip of kitchen roll to one of your yogurt pots and smooth down.

  • Repeat this process until all of your yogurt pots and their lids are covered in kitchen roll & water/glue mixture

  • Leave to dry overnight

  • Once dry, repeat with a second (and perhaps third) layer of Papier Mache until any colour on the yogurt pot can no longer be seen underneath

Step 3 – Paint & Decorate Yogurt Pots/Lids

  • Use a pencil and ruler to draw two lines, 3cm apart, running down the centre of each yogurt pot. Then draw a line running around each yogurt pot horizontally, 2 cm below the opening rim at the top

  • Paint your yogurt pots. We used metallic bronze for the main part of the pot, metallic gold for the horizontal strip running around the top of the pot and white for the vertical strip running down the centre. The vertical strip will need to be a light colour to allow you to decorate with hieroglyphs later

  • Leave to dry

  • Paint black lines along the joins between the colours on each pot

  • Use black paint to write hieroglyphs on the white strip down the centre of your pot. We copied hieroglyphs from a selection of real canopic jars but you can write whatever you want. (Not sure what to write? Check out our Write Your Own Hieroglyphs blog for some help)

  • Paint your yogurt pot lids in metallic gold

  • Leave to dry

Step 4 – Paint & Decorate Clay God Heads

Imsety – Human Head:

  • Base: Paint the face, neck and ears red/brown (leave the eyes white). Paint the rest of the head in metallic gold

  • Face details: Line the eyes with black and add a black dot in the centre. Add black eyebrows

Duamutef – Jackal Head:

  • Base: Paint the head, ears and neck of the jackal in dark grey (leave the eyes white). Paint the rest of the head in metallic gold

  • Face Details: Paint the eyes in yellow and add a dark red dot in the centre. Add two thin lines yellow lines across the brow for eyebrows. Line the eyes in black

Hapi – Baboon Head:

  • Base: Paint the face and neck of the baboon in a red/brown colour (leave the eyes white). Paint the remainder of the head in metallic gold

  • Face Details: Line the eyes with black and add a black dot in the centre of both. Add a black “T” shape in the nose crease. Add two thin black lines across the brow for eyebrows

Qebehsenuef – Falcon Head:

  • Base: Begin with a coat of metallic gold over the entire clay falcon head

  • Face Details: (Note: this is a little complicated – you may want to refer to the photo for better guidance!). Paint the tip of the beak in black and add black circles underneath the brows for eyes. Paint a semi-circle line of black around each eye; starting at the brow behind the eye, arching underneath and ending near the beak. Paint a short vertical line underneath each eye leading down next to the beak. Add another horizontal line on each side, this time arching around the edge of the face. At the top of this line add “feather effects” leading up to the outside of the brow (hint: try scraping the paint upwards using the hard part at the other end of your paint brush).

For the Nemes (headpiece) of each head:

  • On top of the metallic gold, paint a dark blue line in an arch around the face

  • Following the shape of the dark blue line, paint a dark red line next to it over the head. Leave a small gap of gold between each line

  • Repeat with more lines arching over the head, alternating between dark blue and dark red until the head is covered

  • Paint alternating dark blue and dark red lines horizontally underneath the neck at the front if you have space. These lines should not extend out any further than the width of the neck. Again, leave a small gap of gold between each line.

  • For the Jackal head, you may find it easier to paint lines extending vertically from the base of the clay up to meet the dark grey of the jackal head (instead of arches over the top of the head

To Finish:

  • Once dry, use PVA glue to stick the bottom of each clay head onto a metallic gold lid

  • Place the lids on top of your pots. Your Canopic Jars are complete!


If you liked what you just read, why not consider donating to support the blog? It's thanks to awesome people like you that we are able to continue creating content for this History Resource.


Help keep these resources free by donating today! Any amount is greatly appreciated.



Further Reading:


Subscribe to Our
Newsletter

Receive updates on our latest blog posts* including new articles, history guides, arts & crafts ideas and more. 

Plus, it's all free!

*We will not spam you or pass your information onto any third parties. You can unsubscribe at any time using the links at the bottom of the email. For more information, see our Privacy Notice or email us at the address below.

Support Us

To keep this content free, forever.

  • RSS
  • YouTube
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Call Us
  • Email Us
School Workshops - Find Primary & Secondary Workshops for Schools

findschoolworkshops

Lancaster, England