There is no substitute for hands-on learning, as Year 5 found out this week in History, when they were able to put into practice all they had learned about mummification in Ancient Egypt. They had read the account of mummification by the Greek historian, Herodotus, and had looked at pictures of different artefacts used in the process.
They were then presented with a box of tools, and had to work out how, and when, to use these to mummify a ‘pharaoh’. They filmed each other, explaining all the while what they were doing, and why.
They found it quite tricky to extract the ‘brain’ of their banana ‘pharaohs’, but using a hook similar to those they had seen found in Egyptian tombs, they whisked the substance until they could pour it out of the pharaoh’s nose. They used flint knives to cut the bodies open and extract the internal organs, placing these in the correct canopic jars before carefully stuffing the body cavities so that the pharaohs looked just as they had before. Evie explained, “This is important as the Egyptians believed they needed their bodies in the afterlife looking just as they had before.” Sewing the bodies back up also proved challenging, but, as Emilie said, “We placed the two finger amulet over the cut - the Ancient Egyptians believed this would help heal the cut.” In a previous lesson, Macey had researched medicine and healing in Ancient Egypt and had been able to explain to the class the way in which Egyptians believed magic and spells were a vital part of any medical process.
Obviously, wrapping the mummies in linen was the best bit, but Year 5 didn’t forget to tuck ‘heart scarabs’ into the wrappings. As Isobel pointed out, the god Anubis would be weighing the pharaoh’s heart against a feather. The Egyptians hoped that by weighing down the heart with a heavy amulet it might stop the heart from betraying any sins of the pharaoh during the weighing process.
Year 5 compared the funerary practices of the Ancient Egyptians with current Christian beliefs. They found it extraordinary that the Ancient Egyptians were buried with so many items - jewellery, furniture, games, servants, chariots and food. They had a lot of questions. They wondered whether any other cultures or civilisations used mummification. Evan was interested in what happened to poor people on their deaths in Ancient Egypt.
Next week, Year 5 will have the chance to handle some Ancient Egyptian artefacts, and to view and investigate many more, during their trip to the Ashmolean Museum. It is always exciting to look at items which are so ancient, and which reveal much about a civilisation so different from our own. Families might also like to consider visiting the Tutankhamun exhibition in London, https://tutankhamun-london.com/, which features some fascinating items from Tutankhamun’s tomb which have never been exhibited here before.