Homeschool Rite of Passage: The Chicken Mummy
You’ve all heard of the Mommy Wars.
Get ready for the Mummy Wars.
There is some debate as to whether one can call oneself a homeschooler if one has never mummified a chicken during the study of ancient Egypt. The faint of heart try to pass off mummifying an apple or even a Barbie doll, but it’s just not the same. A shriveled-up apple simply does not compare to the slowly evaporating chicken carcass that must remain for weeks on the kitchen counter. Mummifying a Barbie doll does not give you the satisfaction of watching the muscles harden and contract.
All kidding aside, mummifying a chicken is quite an educational experience for parents and kids alike. Vegetarian and vegan families may choose to mummify another object and still benefit from learning about the process. Hands-on activities like this are wonderful ways to cement in kids’ minds the lessons learned from books and museums. It’s one thing to learn that pharaohs were mummified to preserve their bodies for their next lives, but it’s another thing entirely to see what that actually meant for the physical body.
Our family embarked upon the mummification journey almost four years ago. I documented the whole experience in photos. There are instructions for mummifying chickens on the internet and in several curricula, so I’m only going to give you an overview here. Take my advice and start with a small chicken or a capon. Ours was pretty big and took quite a while to dry out.
We prepared our chicken by washing it thoroughly, rinsing it in wine, and drying it completely. We chose not to preserve the innards in canopic jars like they did with real Egyptians mummies, but that would certainly be a good accompanying project. I was a little skeptical that this would actually work, so it was with trepidation that I watched the boys cover the chicken in its first salt bath. Here’s how it looked after the first salt bath:
We were all amazed that the chicken didn’t smell as horrible as we thought it would. I was beginning to think this might actually work. The chicken did smell a little bit, so we added some spices to the next salt bath. We repeated this procedure for several weeks. Each time we took the chicken out of the salt bath, my boys were excited to see that he was a little skinnier, and that his color and odor had changed as well. The boys dubbed him King Akhenaten.
Eventually, King Akhenaten was ready to be entombed, so we read about how the body was prepared for wrapping in the long strips of linen. We anointed King Akhenaten with oils and made amulets to wrap up in the linens with him. Wrapping was a messy step, but once finished, the chicken looked like a real mummy.
The boys made a sarcophagus for King Akhenaten, as well as a pyramid in which to entomb the sarcophagus. We had a funeral procession and burial service. King Akhenaten remained in his pyramid, which was placed in my boys’ room, for three and a half years. Not once did any odor emanate from that pyramid. I stuck my nose up to that pyramid every so often, just to check. I think that was probably the most important lesson we all learned from this whole thing– the ancient Egyptians were pretty clever to figure out what it took to preserve a human body for eternity.
Unfortunately, King Akhenaten was purged from my boys’ room in the last great clean-out. His pyramid did not withstand the test of time as well as the real Egyptian pyramids have. Despite protests from my sons, I made the decision that it was time for King Akhenaten to find another final resting place. He has been in the next world for about six months now, and I find that I actually miss that chicken.
After giving public school a brief try, Lynne and her two sons have decided they are really more of a homeschooling family. Her older son is a humorous fellow with high functioning autism, who thrives in a home education environment. Her younger son is a sensitive soul with a great deal of patience. The boys, Mom, and Dad, along with the two guinea pigs, live in Northeast Ohio. Lynne holds a Master’s Degree in French Language and Literature. She is also a Harry Potter fanatic, enjoys line dancing and Zumba, spends hours scrapbooking, and loves organic vegetables. You can visit her soon to be revitalized blog at http://www.daysofwonderhomeschool.blogspot.com .