Miniature canopic coffins found in Tutankhamun’s tomb contained the pharaoh’s liver

March 4, 2024

The interior of the alabaster canopic chest of King Tutankhamun was divided into four compartments, each holding a miniature gold coffin containing the viscera of the king, wrapped in bandages.

These mummiform coffins were decorated inside with texts and outside with a feather design inlaid in carnelian and colored glass and the titles of the king. Each coffin was under the protection of one of the Four Sons of Horus. This one was dedicated to Hapi and to Nephthys.

Miniature Coffin of TutankhamunMiniature Coffin of Tutankhamun

Each of the four compartments of the canopic chest held a miniature coffin. Covered in linen, they stood upright in their cylindrical compartments.

Related: Innermost Gold Coffin of Tutankhamun

Each was almost glued to the bottom owing to the hardening of the unguents that had been poured in as part of the ritual. It was the duty of the goddess Nepthys, whose name is inscribed on the front, to protect the lungs of Tutankhamun, which were placed inside, after first being preserved.

The figure, fashioned of solid beaten gold, contains inlays of colored glass and semiprecious stones. It is very close in design to the second coffin in which Tutankhamun was buried; in fact, it is almost a miniature version.

Miniature Coffin of King Tutankhamun

Miniature Coffin of King Tutankhamun. Photo: Sandro Vannini

The coffinette depicts the king in the form of Osiris, lord of the dead and the afterlife, holding the heka crook and the nekhekh flail. It is made of beaten gold inlaid with carnelian, obsidian, rock crystal and coloured glass paste.

Within each of the four coffinettes was a linen-wrapped bundle of dried viscera: liver, lungs, stomach, or intestines.

New Kingdom, late 18th Dynasty, reign of Tutankhamun, ca. 1332-1323 BC. From the Tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62), Valley of the Kings, West Thebes. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 60688