Ancient Egypt Unit Study

ancient egypt unit study

Welcome to my huge Ancient Egypt Unit Study post. The children seriously LOVED Egypt and they still ask every single fun week we have ‘could we pleeeeease do Egypt again’!  We did a lot, so like Mesopotamia this will be spread out over a few weeks. 

Ancient Egypt Unit Study: Resources

Factual Books

Our reading load was heavy but all the Egyptian books were well worth the money given how often they have been read and reread:

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Picture Books

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Read Alouds

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Dress Up

Their dress up was simple homemade dress up from a sheet and card and other coloured material.  Oh, and I allowed them a bit of makeup to look even more Egyptian – a HUGE treat!:

C, who was about 7, almost 8, at the time
C, who was about 7, almost 8, at the time
L, also 7
L, also 7
And T, maybe 8 going on 9
And T, maybe 8 going on 9, trying to look very Pharoah like!

Ancient Egypt Unit Study: Mummies and the After-Life

The Ancient Egyptians lived their whole life preparing for death.  Their elaborate belief system meant that life after death held promises of wonders impossible in this world.  Death, burial and mummification seemed a good, if not unusual place to start our study of Ancient Egypt.

Books

We used these books for our study:

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Writing

First we learnt about death and its importance in Ancient Egypt.  We looked at all the things that remain from Ancient Egypt today and how they all revolved around the gods and the after life.  We learnt about mummification:

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And built our own paper mummies:

Our paper mummy, with instructions how to mummify
Our paper mummy, with instructions how to mummify
Inside the paper mummy was a mummified lolly stick!
Inside the paper mummy was a mummified lolly stick!

Mummifying a Chicken

We mummified an apple and then took the decision to mummify a chicken.  This wasn’t going to be any chicken.  We got the local butcher on board and he managed to get hold of a whole chicken, head, feet and insides all present and untouched.  It was a laying chicken which had reached the end of its natural life and was not destined for the table  (my brother has been a passionate vegetarian all his life and my mum is mostly vegetarian with an utter love for animals.)  Familial peer pressure would allow for no less!

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Our wonderful butcher very kindly took out the insides for us, without damaging the chicken’s exterior at all.  He laid out the innards for us to identify.  We made canopic jars by painting baby food jars and sticking the appropriate god to each (which we got from an ancient Egyptian Toob play set).  The innards were placed in those and sealed NEVER to be opened again!

The canopic jar and sarcophagus being painted
The canopic jar and sarcophagus being painted
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We took the rest of the chicken home and followed instructions to mummify it.

  • We cleaned it with alcohol.  We used a cheap Vodka:
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  • We then dried him thoroughly:
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  • We made a mixture of salt and baking powder and filled the insides until full:
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  • We filled a bag full of the mixture and popped in the chicken, making sure he was fully covered:
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Loving Gary’s face!  The things he does in the name of education!!

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  • We left the mixture to dry out the chicken, changing it as it became damp.  Once the mixture was continuously dry we removed the chicken, which by now was very arid and stiff:
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  • We wrapped it in strips of linen:
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The final mummified chicken in its sarcophagus. Note the canopic jar next to it

Ancient Egypt Unit Study: Hieroglyphs

I was very excited to teach the children about hieroglyphs, especially because it meant lots of lovely hands on activities.  We started off with a couple of fiction books, just to whet their appetites:

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I then did some read aloud and we discussed the type of activities we wanted to do:

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I had traveled around Egypt as a teenager and picked up all sorts of goodies we could use – bookmarks, papyrus paper and the like.  We turned these into note pages, describing what hieroglyphs were:

Ancient Egypt Unit Study

Papyrus and Hieroglyph Stamps

I had a lovely set of hieroglyph stamps which I let them play about with for a while on the understanding they had to read the booklet that came with it!

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I had them write out the Egyptian alphabet on a note page and we stuck on some instructions how to make our own papyrus.  Although I had some proper papyrus, we all thought this sounded too fun to pass up:

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The ink was made from boiled berries and the paper from strips stained with brown dye (tea)

Cartouche

And finally I asked them to make a cartouche of their name on the real papyrus, using the stamps:

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Champollion and the Rosetta Stone

We learnt about Champollion and cracking the code reading these two books:

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I read them out loud, and the children read the second many times.  I think this book is one of the best historical picture books ever written and I highly recommend it!!  It is a true story book on Champollion’s life and I seriously can’t say enough good about it!  After ensuring the children fully understood the story, we did a key word outline together covering his life and I asked the children to write a three paragraph essay about him.  I gave as much or as little help as needed for each child:

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C, who was about 8 at the time, wrote a great essay

Ancient Egypt Unit Study: Art

Our core books for learning about Egyptian art were:

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Relief Work

Firstly, we explored the reliefs, as this was something the children were already familiar with.  We looked at examples of sunken reliefs and raised reliefs, wrote about them and the children tried their hand at replicating some:

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C’s sunken relief in the form of a scarab beetle. We used a stencil as a guide
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C’s raised relief.

Cartouche

As writing was so much part of the Egyptian art work, with inscriptions accompanying most forms of art, the children made their own clay cartouche using pictograms for their names:

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L’s cartouche

Clay Models for the Afterlife

The children learnt about the clay models that were used by children to play with, and which were also made to keep the dead company in their journey to the after life:

T's bird
T’s bird
T's scarab beetle
T’s scarab beetle

Sculpture

We also had a bit of fun sculpting a bar of soap, which the children found MUCH harder, given bits kept falling off!

The guys having lots of fun!
The guys having lots of fun!
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And the end results!!

Ancient Egyptian Paintings

Then we got down to the real business learning about the paintings of the ancient Egyptians.  We couldn’t study an artist as we are able to do now we are studying the middle ages, simply because paintings weren’t ascribed to one particular artist.  They were, instead, painted by a team of artisans.  I did an interesting experiment with the children.  I filled a meat tray with plaster and let it dry.  The next morning each child was given a tray and told to paint something.  There were no rules, just to paint anything they chose, with whatever colours they wanted.  These were the results.  You can just make out the paintings if you look really, really closely:

Painting happily away
Painting happily away
The paintings were quite small and difficult to make out.
The paintings were quite small and difficult to make out.

Writing about Art

I then taught them all about the rules of ancient Egyptian art.  They were required to jot these all down, and using them, to carefully plan and execute the drawing and painting of a person onto some papyrus I had left over from my visit to Egypt:

Notepages about reliefs and painting
Note pages about reliefs and painting
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Rules and diagrams of frontalism
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And the lovely results.  I think they all must have chosen to copy the one from the example above!

Grid Painting

C, who was doing her presentation on Egyptian art did an extra painting for her display using the rules.  This is a particularly good example because you can see the grid under the painting.  It is done with the same materials as I gave the children in the first place for their plaster paintings but the results are very different:

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C’s painting, using up all the space, with a grid in the back ground and using all the bright colours customary at that time

Playing at Ancient Egyptians

This study lit a fire in the children that did not go out all summer.  Every single day over the summer, they would dress up in long, artisan robes (I wanted to keep their white egyptian dress up white!) and trek off into the garden and spend hours grinding stone into powder, adding water, eggs and anything else they could think of and painted away to their heart’s content.  I have such wonderful memories of that summer and am so grateful I captured some of it on camera:

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Grinding the stones to powder
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The powders mixed into paints and ready to be used
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L the egyptian artisan, painting away
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And C, sharing with her little sister

End of Ancient Egypt Unit Study: Presentation

At the end of each study we do a presentation.  This was by far our most favourite!  In fact everything about Egypt was our most favourite – it was just so much fun!  The dress up are home made from a sheet, some woven material for T’s belt and card cut out for a collar and coloured in.  We also allowed them to wear make up!  (They are never allowed to wear make up-very exciting!!).

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All dressed up and raring to go
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Just so excited!
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T did his presentation on mummification and in particular Tutankhamen
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L did her presentation on Hieroglyphs
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And C did hers on Egyptian art

Making our own Pottery

We also took a trip to a pottery place to try our hand at forming clay on a wheel:

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Field Trip: British Museum

We focused only on the Egyptian section and particularly the mummy’s…

Ancient Egypt Unit Study
Ancient Egypt Unit Study
Ancient Egypt Unit Study
Ancient Egypt Unit Study
Ancient Egypt Unit Study
Ancient Egypt Unit Study

And that is the end of our Egyptian study.  We revisited Egypt in our studies last summer.  We did our own Egyptian dig; solved an Egyptian mystery; explored the morality of mummies on display in museums; delved much deeper into the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb and read Carter’s biography (Man who discovered Tutankhamen’s tomb)  Click here if you’d like to learn more about what we did!

10 comments

  1. So I pinned this and thought, “Brilliant, why didn’t I think to make a sarcophagus when we studied Egypt?” And then promptly closed the window having in my mind made the comment. I need to get a pot of tea going.

  2. Oh, my goodness they are cute dressed up! You were smart enough to take pictures. I don’t have pictures of the stuff we did in the pre-blogging days.

    1. I wish I’d taken more. It is the best thing about blogging – having to record everything makes you more reliable about taking photos of everything.

  3. Thank you for grouping all your posts together. I am getting to see some of your old posts which I’d have missed otherwise.

  4. L is studying ancient Egypt in school – and its nowhere near as interesting as your studies! I’m still awed at the fact that you mummified a chicken!

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