The ancient Egyptians believed that life on earth was a brief prelude to life in the hereafter. To prepare themselves for the afterlife, they devised elaborate burial rituals, including decorating tombs with images of the gods, gathering grave goods, and mummification. Mummification was believed to ensure the eternal life of the soul. The Egyptians became so skilled at mummification, or embalming, that the bodies of some of their long-dead kings and queens remain virtually intact today.

Here's what you'll need to make a mummy:

1 whole chicken or Cornish game hen

1 large, self-sealing bag

2 bags of salt (to simulate the natron, a salt-like mineral called hydrated sodium carbonate, used by the Egyptians)

1 bottle of oil (olive or scented oil are best)

1-inch strips of linen, cotton, or heavy cheesecloth

Strongly scented spices like rosemary, cinnamon or cloves

Resin or lacquer (optional)


  1. Give your mummy a name.
  2. Wash the chicken and pat it dry with a towel.
  3. Put the chicken in the self-sealing bag. Cover it with salt. Zip the bag closed tightly.
  4. Every few days, check to see if the chicken is drying out. Change the salt at least every 10 to 12 days (you may have to do this a couple of times). The process may take four weeks or more to complete.
  5. Remove the chicken from the bag. Wash it, rub it with oil, and cover it with spices.
  6. Wrap cloth strips around the chicken until the oil and spices do not soak through the strips.
  7. Coat the mummy with resin or lacquer.

Mummies were buried in elaborate sarcophagi, an ornate coffin. You can make a sarcophagus out of a cardboard box. Decorate it with hieroglyphics and Egyptian-style designs. For some extra fun, bury the mummy (get permission first!); maybe next year's class can dig it up, analyze your designs and write about their archeological adventures!



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