Tomb Raiders and mummy makers
In this activity you will learn some facinating facts about the Ancient Egyptians and their burial practices.
You can do these activties with the materials you have at home or in the class room. We also offer a loan boxes on the Ancient Egyptians as well as a taught session.
So, lets begin, who were the Ancient Egyptians?
You have probably heard of the Ancient Egyptians and the pyrimids and mummys that they left behind. But who were the Ancient Egyptians, when and where did they live and what did they believe in, lets start by finding out.
Who were the Anicent Egyptians?
Ancient Egypt was a civilization in northeastern Africa and the Ancient Egyptians were the people that lived there. The map on the left shows the location of the Ancient Egyptian Empire at its largest.
It began around 5,000 years ago (thats 3000 BCE) when people started building villages next to the River Nile in north-east Africa. It lasted for around 3,000 years.
What did they believe in?
The ancient Egyptians had many gods, this means they were polytheistic.
This lovely word comes from the greek routes of polys meaning many, much or multi and theos meaning god.
They Ancient Egyptians believed the gods created the universe and maintained order, but they were also involved in everyday life. Egyptian religious beliefs and practices were built into everyday Egyptian society; there where two main focus points to their religion, the gods and the king. The king was part human and part god and enourmous relgious funerary monuments for his afterlife including THE PYRIMIDS!
How do we know anything about Ancient Egypt - it was so long ago!
Take a look at the boxes below and try to guess if which were left behind by the Ancient Egyptians. Then you can click to find out if you were right and if so, how archeologists and egyptoligists (thats someone who specilises in the scientific study of Ancient Egypt and its antiquities) can use them to learn about life in Ancient Egypt.
The Ancient Egyptians used writting called hieroglyphs (Greek for "sacred words"). Hieroglyphs were written on papyrus, carved in stone and used to decorate many objects.
For centuries, the meaning of the mysterious and mystical Egyptian hieroglyphs baffled the greatest minds in the world untill the discovery of the rosetta stone in 1799. The same piece of text had been inscribed on the stone three times, in Greek, demotic and hieroglyphics.
The Greek revealed what the hieroglyphs meant but how the language worked. It was decifered in 1828 by Jean-François Champollion, who discovered that the Egyptian writing system was a combination of phonetic (That means you can look at a written word and know how to pronounce it) and ideographic signs (a graphic symbol that represents an idea or concept).
The ancient Egyptians built their pyramids, tombs, temples and some palaces out of stone, the most durable of all building materials. They also used sun-baked mud bricks which is the material used to make houses in Ancient Egypt.
Mud was collected from the damp banks of the Nile river. It was placed in moulds and left to dry in the hot sun to harden for use in construction. If the bricks were intended to be used in a royal tomb like a pyramid, the exterior bricks would also be finely chiselled and polished.
Many Egyptian towns have disappeared because they were situated near the cultivated area of the Nile Valley and were flooded as the river bed slowly rose during the millennia. However the hot dry climate means that some of these mud brick towns survive, along with pyrimids, temples, statues and many other artifacts.
Buildings and structures
The Ancient Egyptians left behind lots of painted and carved images. Examples can be found on the walls of their palaces, tombs, and temples, and they also painted on objects, such as stelae (carved or painted slabs of stone or wood) or coffins.
Paintings and murals
The Ancient Egyptain language had no word for "art". This is because it was created for a purpose not for personal expression. This is why all Ancient Egyptian art is a similar style.
Much of the artwork created by the Ancient Egyptians had to do with their religion. They would fill the tombs of the Pharaohs with paintings and sculptures. Much of this artwork was there to help the Pharaohs in the afterlife.
Artifacts have provided essential clues about life in ancient Egypt. Ancient Egyptians believed in an afterlife and buried the dead with things they would need in order to live on in the afterlife. As a result, the tombs of ancient Egypt provide a wealth of artifacts that give insight into the culture.
In ancient Egypt, every citizen was entitled to a proper burial. The process, known as mummification, is one of the oldest and most complex burial practices in history.
The earliest mummies from prehistoric times probably were accidental. By chance, dry sand and air (since Egypt has almost no measurable rainfall) preserved some bodies buried in shallow pits dug into the sand. About 2600 B.C., during the Fourth and Fifth Dynasties, Egyptians probably began to mummify the dead intentionally. They also mummified animals including cats and crocodiles.
This practice means there are lots of remains for archeoligists to study.
Tombs were stocked with everything pherohs might need or want in the afterlife, thsi of course includes food, preserved for eternity.
The remains of many different foods have been found including loaves of bread, meat such as antelope, goose and duck, wheat, barley, figs, dates, melons, and grapes.
Did you guess correctly?
The Ancient Egyptians left behind all of these objects and due to the very dry hot climate and the burial practices of the Ancient Egyptians many of these objects survive today.
As we have learned the Ancient Egyptians believed that they needed to prepare for the after life. As well as preserving their bodies they also thought they needed to take their posessions.
On a sheet of paper draw and label the things you would take to the afterlife. Which of you possessions would you take and why?