Hands-on activities add a ton of interest to the ancient history classroom. One of my favorites is creating an Egyptian mummy from a carrot!
It’s low prep, low maintenance, and high interest! Because it takes about 6 weeks for the carrots to fully mummify, you’ll want to start this project as soon as you start your Egypt unit. By the time you’re teaching mummies, your carrots will be!
How to Make an Egyptian Mummy
- Line the bottom of a shallow plastic container with paper towels.
- Spread a layer of salt on top of the paper towels.
- Push whole unpeeled carrots into the salt. Alternate thick and thin ends to fit more carrots.
- Cover the carrots with salt. Leave uncovered on a shelf or floor to speed evaporation.
- Change the wet paper towels for dry each week. Take the carrots out of the salt. Push salt to one side to change towels. Then cover the new towels with the salt to change the rest of towels. Bury the carrots in the salt. My students loved this job. They were amazed at the progression of the mummification and how much smaller the carrots became over 6 weeks. Reactions progressed from “gross” to “cool,” especially when we examined pictures of real Egyptian mummies.
- After 6 weeks, you’ll have a full-fledged mummy carrot! Mine is 15 years old!
For a more authentic experience, wrap your mummies “Egyptian” style. Bury your mummy in a box. Wrap the sarcophagus with paper and decorate! This worked especially well as an assembly line. Each student brushed their mummy with oil and sprinkled with cinnamon before wrapping with “linen” gauze. Masking tape makes a terrific mummia!
Make it a STEAM Project
Science colleagues of mine pointed out that mummification is an example of osmosis which middle schoolers learn in conjunction with cells. So wow, here we have a perfect STEAM project.
I love cross-curricular opportunities. Students just seem to learn better with heightened engagement when they see how something they learn in one class spills over into other classes. The world is not so compartmentalized even if school can be.
However, as I am not a science expert, I’d absolutely draw in my science teacher to take the lead on relating our carrots to osmosis.
It’s easiest with a large group of carrots to choose just one carrot to monitor each week for osmosis. Mark it with a rubber band which won’t hurt the mummification process. Record the carrot’s weight at the start of the project and then every week thereafter. Can you believe that our test carrot lost over 50% of it’s weight in the first week. That’s a lot of osmosis!
Along with metric and customary mass math standards, you’ll hit on decimal calculations, ratios, percentage, and a bit of graphing.
For an ELA tie-in, have students research a pharaoh or write about their “mummy.”
Resources for How to Make an Egyptian Mummy
If you’re all in on mummification, you’ll want to check out this Ancient Egyptian Mummies Resource for a complete set of materials and illustrated instructions.
- 4-Page Infographic detailing Ancient Egypt’s Mummification Process
- Reading Comprehension Word Search and Riddle
- Illustrated Instructions for Mummifying and Wrapping Carrots along with creating a sarcophagus for your carrot mummy
- Writing Prompt inviting students to share information about their mummy
- Science Lab Materials for recording and graphing water loss through osmosis
If you’re looking for a complete Ancient Egyptian Religion Unit, which includes this Ancient Egypt Mummy Resource, check out this Egypt Religion Bundle Resource.
You’ll want to read this GRAPES – R is for Religion blog post if you teach ancient cultures using the GRAPES structure.
Have fun changing up your ancient history classroom with this fun Egyptian mummy activity!
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