Family & Education

Mummy's the word for embalmers of Sinai

Pupils try their hand at ancient techniques of preservation


Children at Sinai Primary School in Kenton enjoyed an Egyptology class with a difference — they learned how to make a mummy.

They had to practise the techniques used thousands of years ago to preserve the bodies of Pharaohs.

Not that they needed a body – a tomato proved perfectly ripe for the experiment.

Teacher Rosalind Saville, Sinai’s lead on humanities explained she was looking to enliven that area of the curriculum, which includes history, geography and work on British values,

“I’ve revamped the whole curriculum, trying to approach topics a little bit differently rather than watching a video or handing out another worksheet. I wanted to think out of the box.”

For their history module on ancient Egypt, year-four children have learned to write their names in hieroglyphics, studied the importance of the River Nile and read the ancient Egyptian version of Cinderella.

Nowadays, there are various online fora where teachers can glean new ideas for the classroom.

And so it was that year-fours were able to have a go at the art of embalmnent for themselves — which the Egyptians thought crucial to prepare a body for its journey to the afterlife.

“They had to go through the process. First, they had to cut very gently inside their tomatoes and remove the internal parts.”

These were separately stored, just as the Egyptians sealed the internal organs in canoptic jars.

“In ancient Egypt, they used natron as a special salt. We made our own version using salt from bicarbonate of soda,” Mrs Saville said. “We packed the tomatoes, filling in the crevices and then left them to dry.”

For those who meticulously followed the procedure, the reward was a neatly dessicated vegetable a few days later.

“A colleague of mine at a different school once mummified fish,” she said, “but then she forgot about it.”

Until the unwelcome reminder of the smell.

Exploring ancient Egypt is one of the ways children at a school like Sinai discover cultures other than their own. More up-to-date, their work on British values has included projects for Black History Month and twinning with a local Hindu school.

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