Qebehsenuef “God of Falcon-headed” The four sons of Horus were a group of four deities in ancient Egyptian religion who were believed to protect deceased people in the afterlife. Beginning in the First Intermediate Period of Egyptian history (c. 2181–2055 BC), Imsety, Hapy, Duamutef, and Qebehsenuef were especially connected with the four canopic jars that housed the internal organs that were removed from the body of the deceased during the process of mummification. Most commonly, Imsety protected the liver, Hapy the lungs, Duamutef the stomach, and Qebehsenuef the intestines, but this pattern often varied. The canopic jars were given lids that represented the heads of the sons of Horus. Although they were originally portrayed as humans, in the latter part of the New Kingdom (c. 1550–1070 BC), they took on their most distinctive iconography, in which Imsety is portrayed as a human, Hapy as a baboon, Duamutef as a jackal, and Qebehsenuef as a falcon. The four sons were also linked with stars in the sky, with regions of Egypt, and with the cardinal directions.

Worship The worship of the sons of Horus was almost entirely restricted to the funerary sphere. They were first mentioned late in the Old Kingdom (c. 2686–2181 BC) in the Pyramid Texts and continued to be invoked in funerary texts throughout ancient Egyptian history. Their connection with the canopic jars was established in the First Intermediate Period, and afterward they became ubiquitous in the decoration of canopic chests, coffins, and sarcophagi. Although they were increasingly closely associated with the internal organs, they continued to appear in burial equipment even after the use of canopic jars was abandoned in the Ptolemaic Period (303–30 BC), disappearing only in the fourth century AD with the extinction of the ancient Egyptian funerary tradition.

Origins are first mentioned in the Pyramid Texts, the earliest ancient Egyptian funerary texts, in the late Old Kingdom (24th and 23rd centuries BC). In numerous sources, such as Spell 541 of the Pyramid Texts, they are stated to be the children of Horus, one of the major deities of the Egyptian pantheon. In a few of these texts they are instead called the children of the god Atum, the god Geb, or the goddess Nut. A passage in the Coffin Texts from the Middle Kingdom (c. 2055–1650 BC) says they are the offspring of the goddess Isis and a form of Horus known as Horus the Elder. In the Pyramid Texts, the sons of Horus are said to assist the deceased king in the afterlife. In Spell 688, for example, they “make firm a ladder” for the king to ascend into the sky, while in Spell 338 they protect him from hunger and thirst.

Roles the funerary deity whose mythological death and resurrection served as the template for ancient Egyptian funerary practices. Some texts even refer to them as the sons of Osiris rather than Horus. In a Middle Kingdom ritual, recorded in the Dramatic Ramesseum Papyrus, the sons of Horus aid Osiris in his rejuvenation after death, fight the followers of his enemy Set, and restore the lost Eye of Horus to their father. Spell 137 of the Book of the Dead from the New Kingdom (c. 1550–1070 BC) says to them, “as you spread your protection over your father Osiris-Khentiamentiu, so spread your protection over [the deceased person]”. In the tenth section of the New Kingdom Book of Gates, a funerary text that depicts the underworld in detail, the four sons are portrayed holding chains that bind the malign beings called “wmmtj-snakes”.

A vignette in the Book of the Dead of Ani (c. 1250 BC) depicts a personified canopic chest flanked by the sons of Horus.[17]