Myths & Mummification
As in most cultures, myths of ancient Egypt provide an explanation for various religious beliefs, cultural rituals, and natural phenomenon. On a deeper level, myths serve to explain the world view of a people. In Lesson 1, students make inferences in order to gain an acute understanding of the belief system of ancient Egyptians by analyzing some of their myths and comparing myths from other cultures. In Lesson 2, students examine the mummification and burial practices of ancient Egypt and compare and contrast with the burial practices of other cultures.
LESSON 1: Myths & Mummification
Students make inferences in order to gain an acute understanding of the belief system of ancient Egyptians by analyzing some of their myths and comparing myths from other cultures.
- Initiate a discussion with students asking: What is a myth?
- Have students share examples of myths that they know and create a definition based on what they share. Compare this explanation with one from the dictionary.
- Read a version of Isis and Osiris and ask if this falls into the category of myth that they just created.
- Ask students what the main idea or message is of this myth?
- Have students read over the myth again in a group and come up with as many inferences that they can about life and culture in ancient Egypt.
- Students can continue to explore other myths to uncover and compare beliefs and rituals of other cultures. Focus on a specific topic (death, creation) and have each group research a myth from a specific culture.
- Using the jigsaw strategy, one member from each group (an expert in their cultural myth) will present it to their new group (where each cultural myth is being represented).
- After every member has presented, groups will compare each culture and make inferences about the differing/similar belief systems.
LESSON 2: Mummification and Burial Practices
During a re-analysis of the myth of Isis & Osiris, students will focus on the ritual of mummification. Students will explore this detailed process through on-line resources to better understand the mysteries of Egyptian burial traditions. Students will make comparisons between other cultures and challenge preconceived notions regarding ancient rituals and current practices.
- Have students use descriptive words to express their initial thoughts about mummification as a burial ritual. You can create a class mind map to record student ideas. These will be revisited.
- Hand out copies of the myth of Isis & Osiris for students to re-read. As they begin to understand the beginnings of the ritual of mummification, they will record questions they have regarding the actual process.
- Provide time for students to explore the process of mummification online:
- The Discovery Channel's Egypt's Ten Greatest Discoveries: Mummification is a video by HowStuffWorks that examines King Tut's skull to understand the mummification process
- Mummies: How Mummification Works, an informative video by HowStuffWorks demonstrating the mummification process
- "Study Unwraps Ancient "Recipe" for Mummies", written by Hillary Mayell for National Geographic News
- EternityTravel.com: Book Your Afterlife Now by the Museum of Science in Boston
- Now that students have a better understanding about the process of mummification, they can begin to compare/contrast this burial ritual with those of two other cultures. Encourage students to organize their findings by focusing on one specific ritual and compare how each culture performs it. For example, for the ritual of preparing the body, who performs the ritual for each culture? Where is the body laid to rest?
- After several students have presented, ask students how different these practices/beliefs are with those of ancient Egypt? Revisit the descriptive words students offered at the start of this learning activity and discuss if any of these apply to other cultures as well? Would they change any of these word choices? Why or why not?