Will anyone faint? – I hope not…

Dear 7B,

Actually, I have caused a student to faint in one of my classes. While I like to imagine that the cause was my magnetic personality, the reality is that I was describing brain operations in my Psychology class. None of my Year 7 students has ever felt seriously queasy during a class mummification. But you might be especially sensitive. We’ll find out this afternoon.

The grisly details are below. Read on.

Your chief embalmer,

Ms Green

playdough mummy

METHOD AND OTHER GRUESOME DETAILS

The ancient Egyptians had embalming down to a fine art. We know about their methods both from ancient sources (for example, the Greek historian, Herodotus) and modern analysis. The essential process was to dry the body out by removing as much wet stuff as possible and salting the rest. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Not really. As you can no doubt imagine, many things can go wrong when you are working with a rotting body in sweltering heat, with jackals roaming around outside and the occasional incompetent embalmer thrown in for good measure.

brain drainMy students always seem to be most revolted by the first part of the process. After the body was washed with Nile water, the brain was extracted with an iron hook. This was a tricky task, made easier by the tendency of the putrefying brain to become quite liquid. The embalmers would break the ethmoid bone and push it up into the cranial cavity, then draw down the brain with the hook. Fragments might also be scooped out with a long-handled spoon. Much of the remainder could be allowed to drip out through the nose. The ancient Egyptians didn’t realise that the brain was an important organ. They thought the seat of reason and emotion was the heart. Therefore they left the heart in and let the brain drain.

Gives a whole new meaning to that phrase, “brain drain”, doesn’t it?

For the high-class corpse the next part of the task was to cut into the flank and remove the stomach, lungs, liver and intestines. Such care was not taken for the cheaper methods of mummification. I’m describing the version used for pharaohs and nobles here. After all, this is a high-class blog.

Ramses_II_-_The_mummy pdA photo of Ramses II’s mummy, provided by Wikimedia Commons and in the public domain

The cavity would be packed with aromatic substances and linen, and the body would then have natron, a type of salt, packed around it. For forty days the body would be left to dry out, and after this period it looked darker, shrivelled and leathery. To make it appear more life-like, oils might be massaged into the stiff skin; in the later period the emaciated arms and legs were sometimes stuffed with various substances to make them look rounder and more human. The problem was that the fragile skin could easily be torn. This leads me inexorably to the topic of things that could go wrong.

800px-Mummy-UpperClassEgyptianMale-SaitePeriod_RosicrucianM pd Wikimedia Commons

This picture is used courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and is in the public domain. It shows clearly how the skin of a mummy became thin and the limbs emaciated-looking through the process of mummification.

All jobs have their bad points and embalming, perhaps, had more than most. It was easy to make mistakes and difficult to fix them. Embalmers who over-stuffed the limbs of mummies, for instance, could cause havoc. The cheeks of one princess now in the Cairo museum had been padded so much that they burst and had to be restitched. Sometimes bits of bodies were lost, including nipples and penises; they would be replaced with artificial versions, if the embalmer had a conscience. Rats and mice were occasionally caught for ever in the wrappings and mummified along with the person. Some mummies, when unwrapped, have been found to be missing a vital bodily part, such as a foot. All of this serves to show that mummification was a tricky operation.

Anubis-attending-the-mummy-of-Sennedjem wwwfreeclipartnowcom pd

Anubis performing his role as the protector of the dead; picture provided courtesy of www.freeclipartnow.com (public domain)

Matryoshka dollAnyway, after the body was cleaned and repacked with fresh stuffing, it would be bandaged with linen and put into a coffin in the shape of a human being – sometimes several coffins, each nesting in the next like those Russian Matryoshka dolls.

drawing of mummy coffin public domain image from karenswhimsycomThis image is a drawing of Egyptian coffins, provided by www.karenswhimsy.com

No students are ever harmed during our class mummifications. In fact, most students find that the process, while a touch gruesome, is highly entertaining. I knew I had a winning lesson when students started taking pictures of the process with their mobile phones. But the question is, during our class mummification will you be a competent embalmer, or will you be the type about whom an ancient Egyptian might make disparaging remarks?

There’s no way I’m giving my body to that embalmer. She’d be bound to lose a leg or some other part of me that I need for my afterlife.

or…

Why, he can’t even get to class without losing something. And I’m perfectly certain that he can’t sew.

We’ll find out this afternoon!

A couple more sources to whet your appetite and help with your assignment:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34258529/ns/technology_and_science-science/

For a site that gives a detailed account of mummification, click HERE.

Some revision of the past, a game and a quiz

Cruelty to children in the state education system...

Dear 7B,
At some stage in their lives, all students are cruelly confined in a darkened room and forced to write almost non-stop for 48 minutes, without recourse to books, without help from their teacher and without any electronic gadgets to aid them.

Requests for toilet visits, drinks and any kind of nutrition are denied them.

While they work like slaves for a harsh taskmaster (or mistress), they are watched by a woman of uncertain age and intimidating appearance, who wanders around the room, admonishing them and urging them on. Sometimes her encouragement is almost harder to bear than the ordeal itself.

This gruesome test of courage and perseverance is called a test. Tests give high school teachers a little score to write in their markbooks and show to parents on parent-teacher night. Tests are a bitter reminder that education is not just about learning but also about getting little numbers allotted to your name on the roll.

The week after next you will be completing one of these daunting tasks. That’s why I’m giving you a couple of friendly little revision tasks to do, as well as a link to a BBC game on mummification.

The games will be fun. But don’t forget, the test will be horrid, unless you use the games to ace the test, keep that mean old woman happy and show the Education Department, once and for all, what you’re made of. Play hard. Try to remember everything. Good luck.

Kind regards from Ms Green

 

Next, a little quiz on ancient Egypt.

Lastly, you can visit the wonderful BBC website and play Mummy Maker. In this game, you can learn by making mistakes as well as by not making them. I love games like that.
Mummy Maker Game

The flow of history – from the Stone Age to ancient Egypt

Click on this link to complete a multiple choice quiz on the Stone Age. Some of the answers will be easier if you paid close attention to the video, “Stories from the Stone Age”. Good luck!

Stone Age Quiz Link

 

 

…there is no country that possesses so many wonders…

Herodotus

This picture of modern Egypt with its ancient wonders was kindly provided by Mrs McQueen in the library. She has more exciting holidays than I do, though I must admit, I have climbed those ancient stones myself. There's a photo below, in which I look uncomfortably hot. That was back in 1987.

This picture of modern Egypt with its ancient wonders was kindly provided by Mrs McQueen in the library. She has more exciting holidays than I do, though I must admit, I have climbed those ancient stones myself.

Egypt has a great fascination for historians. 

Remember, I'm a god. Even though I suffer from abscesses on my teeth and other mortal problems.

Remember, I'm a god - even though I suffer from abscesses on my teeth and other mortal problems.

Herodotus, a man from ancient Athens who is often dubbed the “father of history”, found the culture of the Egyptians strange as well as fascinating. You may feel the same as you wander the desert sands, sail across the Nile and show your embalming skills on our class mummy. I hope so.

♦Read up on the process of mummification

Play the Mummy Maker Game at the BBC website by clicking here

Read about the power of the Pharaohs here

View the treasures of Tutankhamen here

Another Resource for Studying Ancient Egypt

The World Book Online is a brilliant resource, which you can even access from outside through the intranet or this blog. You will need the username (bhhs) and password (worldbook) to use it, however.

Screen shot 2010-08-17 at 4.00.04 PM

A yucky job – but someone had to do it

Dear 7X,

Ever since you arrived in the school I’ve been convinced that you were bound for greatness. Here is my evidence:

♦You are so ORGANISED. You even use your diaries.

♦You are industrious.

♦You are efficient.

♦You keep me on my toes. When I forget something, you remind me. You’re like walking human diaries. With you, I don’t need a Google calendar or my i-Touch blaring at me to remember something.

Aaaaaah, but despite these sterling qualities, would you be any good at mummifying? Could you deal with a putrefying body at temperatures of more than 40 degrees Celsius, with the relatives checking up on your every move and jackals lurking in the desert? Is this a job that you might undertake only to fail or, worse still, to run from the desert tent before you fainted or vomited?

Even for young people with such promising futures, I feel this kind of role might be seriously traumatic. That’s why we’re going to try it in class, during the last week of term. In the meantime, read up on what you’ll be doing below and, while in the process, you’ll find material for your Emit Repoons assignment.

playdough mummy

METHOD AND OTHER GRUESOME DETAILS

The ancient Egyptians had embalming down to a fine art. We know about their methods from both ancient sources (for example, Herodotus, the tourist and historian) and modern analysis. The essential process was to dry the body out by removing as much wet stuff as possible and salting the rest. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Not really. As you can no doubt imagine, many things can go wrong when you are working with a rotting body in sweltering heat, with jackals roaming around outside and the occasional incompetent embalmer thrown in for good measure.

brain drainMy students always seem to be most revolted by the first part of the process. After the body was washed with Nile water, the brain was extracted with an iron hook. This was a tricky task, assisted somewhat by the tendency of the putrefying brain to become quite liquid. The embalmers would break the ethmoid bone and push it up into the cranial cavity, then draw down the brain with the hook. Fragments might also be scooped out with a long-handled spoon. Much of the remainder could be allowed to drip out through the nose. The ancient Egyptians didn’t realise that the brain was an important organ. They thought the seat of reason and emotion was the heart. Therefore they left the heart in and let the brain drain.

Gives a whole new meaning to that phrase, “brain drain”, doesn’t it?

For the high-class corpse the next part of the task was to cut into the flank and remove the stomach, lungs, liver and intestines. Such care was not taken for the cheaper methods of mummification. I’m describing the version used for pharaohs and nobles here. After all, this is a high-class blog.

Ramses_II_-_The_mummy pdA photo of Ramses II’s mummy, provided by Wikimedia Commons and in the public domain

The cavity would be packed with aromatic substances and linen, and the body would then have natron, a type of salt, packed around it. For forty days the body would be left to dry out, and after this period it looked darker, shrivelled and leathery. To make it appear more life-like, oils might be massaged into the stiff skin; in the later period the emaciated arms and legs were sometimes stuffed with various substances to make them look rounder and more human. The problem was that the fragile skin could easily be torn. This leads me inexorably to the topic of things that could go wrong.

800px-Mummy-UpperClassEgyptianMale-SaitePeriod_RosicrucianM pd Wikimedia Commons

This picture is used courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and is in the public domain. It shows clearly how the skin of a mummy became thin and the limbs emaciated-looking through the process of mummification.

All jobs have their bad points and embalming, perhaps, had more than most. It was easy to make mistakes and difficult to fix them. Embalmers who over-stuffed the limbs of mummies, for instance, could cause havoc. The cheeks of one princess now in the Cairo museum had been padded so much that they burst and had to be restitched. Sometimes bits of bodies were lost, including nipples and penises; they would be replaced with artificial versions, if the embalmer had a conscience. Rats and mice were occasionally caught for ever in the wrappings and mummified along with the person. Some mummies, when unwrapped, have been found to be missing a vital bodily part, such as a foot. All of this serves to show that mummification was a tricky operation.

Anubis-attending-the-mummy-of-Sennedjem wwwfreeclipartnowcom pd

Anubis performing his role as the protector of the dead; picture provided courtesy of www.freeclipartnow.com (public domain)

Matryoshka dollAnyway, after the body was cleaned and repacked with fresh stuffing, it would be bandaged with linen and put into a coffin in the shape of a human being – sometimes several coffins, each nesting in the next like those Russian Matryoshka dolls.

drawing of mummy coffin public domain image from karenswhimsycomThis image is a drawing of Egyptian coffins, provided by www.karenswhimsy.com

No students are ever harmed during our class mummifications. In fact, most students find that the process, while a touch gruesome, is highly entertaining. I knew I had a winning lesson when students started taking pictures of the process with their mobile phones. But the question is, during our class mummification will you be a competent embalmer, or will you be the type about whom an ancient Egyptian might make disparaging remarks?

There’s no way I’m giving my body to that embalmer. She’d be bound to lose a leg or some other part of me that I need for my afterlife.

or…

Why, he can’t even get to class without losing something. And I’m perfectly certain that he can’t sew.

We’ll find out in the last week of term, 7X!

Kind regards from your head embalmer,

Ms Green

Sites that will help you answer the questions in red below:

Ancient Egyptians tormented by their teeth:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34258529/ns/technology_and_science-science/

Using the ancient Egyptian recipe to mummify a body part:

http://news.discovery.com/archaeology/mummification-egypt-salt.html

Try to find answers to the following:

  • What problems did the ancient Egyptians have with their teeth?
  • What are some diseases that they suffered from?
  • Why is it often difficult to tell (a) the cause of death and (b) the likely living weight of the person?

For another source that gives a detailed account of mummification, click HERE.

Activities on Ancient Egypt

As you play the Mummy Maker game, try to learn about all the steps of mummification. You may need some clues from Miuty the cat.

Don’t worry too much about making a mistake. You can learn from your mistakes, and you can always play the game again.

The game tells you what the ancient Egyptians believed that made them mummify bodies with such care and skill. Fill in the blanks below as you read.

Play the Mummy Maker Game at the BBC website by clicking here

ANCIENT EGYPTIAN MUMMIFICATION BELIEFS

Copy this into a blank Word file and fill in the answers. Then paste it into your workbook. Don’t forget to save your work!

Fill in the blanks below:

The ancient Egyptians believed that after you died, your__travelled to the ______. You would be judged by _____, the Lord of the Underworld. Your ___ and ___ would be reunited if you were judged to have been a ____ person. Then you could live eternally in ______.But your soul had to be able to ______ your body, so the ______ had to look as it had looked when you were alive. That’s why they _______ people.

The person who did this skilful but messy job was called an _______. He had to remove _____ and _____, and wrap the body in such a way as to give it ______ protection.

Convert your name to hieroglyphs here

A Messy Operation

At last we fitted in our mummification, just before camp. Thank you, 7F, for putting off your immunisations until the end of the period. I’ll bring in more photos to show you tomorrow – kindly taken by Audree. (I still need to receive more permission forms before I can publish photos here.)

 DanielDaniel anoints the mummy with oil to make it look more lifelike after it had been dried out by salt.

 Tina 2Tina sews up the mummy – a tricky task. Check out her powerpoint, which is even better than her embroidery!

These two powerpoints knocked me off my correction chair in my tiny study. They were brilliant, startling, quirky, creative, knowledgeable… Have a look and you’ll see what I mean.

 Audree’s Powerpoint: emit-repoons-in-egypt

  

Audrey’s drawing of Anubis and the form Llatiwonk takes when she enters ancient Egypt as a black cat…

 Tina’s Powerpoint: emit-by-tina-2009

In Tina’s story there is an interview with Nefertiti and also with the common people who are not to be forgotten.

Off to Egypt

A Message from Emit We’re off! Llatiwonk made me do all the safety checks first. Yesterday she even forced me to learn some basic hieroglyphics. It’s not necessary when I have my language chip in my pocket pod, but she thought it would help me to get the feel of the new mission. “I have a knack for languages,” she said, “but even with your language chip you sometimes make the most dreadful mistakes.” Well, it is true, but I wish she wouldn’t remind me of it.

Time to do some advance reading. I refuse to let Llatiwonk tell me everything this time. I’m going to surprise her with my brilliance, my forethought, my sheer genius for archaeological delving…

________________________________________________________

 Your Work for Today:

As you play the Mummy Maker game, try to learn about all the steps of mummification. You may need some clues from Miuty the cat.

 

Don’t worry too much about making a mistake. You can learn from your mistakes, and you can always play the game again.

 

The game tells you what the ancient Egyptians believed that made them mummify bodies with such care and skill. Fill in the blanks below as you read.

Mummy-Maker Game at the BBC Website    

(arrow from animatedclipart.net)                           

Copy this into a blank Word file and fill in the answers. Then paste it into your workbook. Don’t forget to save your work!

 

ANCIENT EGYPTIAN MUMMIFICATION BELIEFS

 

Fill in the blanks below:

 

The ancient Egyptians believed that after you died, your __ travelled to the ______. You would be judged by _____, the Lord of the Underworld. Your ___ and ___ would be reunited if you were judged to have been a ____ person. Then you could live eternally in ______.

 

But your soul had to be able to ______ your body, so the ______ had to look as it had looked when you were alive. That’s why they _______ people.

 

The person who did this skilful but messy job was called an _______.  He had to remove _____ and _____, and wrap the body in such a way as to give it ______ protection.

 

Once you’ve finished this task, you are free to do some web research for your assignment. Don’t forget to list all your websites in a file so that you can give me a bibliography.

Kind regards from Ros.