Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt Study and Activities

Ancient Egypt Unit Study

Lesson 3: Canopic Jars - My daughter made a paper mache canopic jar and my son built a pyramid building tool.

Mummies were made throughout the entire history of Egypt, but pyramids were only built during the Old Kingdom and Middle Kingdoms. Pyramids were built to house the mummy of the pharaoh as well as the items he would need during the afterlife. Before pharaohs began building pyramids, they were buried in mastaba tombs which were much smaller versions of pyramids. Unfortunately, pyramids were magnets for robbers seeking the wealth of objects the pharaoh was planning to use in his afterlife. Therefore, in later times pyramid building went out of style and pharaohs were buried in secret tombs.

Like the pharaohs, royal and common Egyptians believed they would need their bodies in the afterlife. During the Old Kingdom period, very few people could afford the expense of mummification. However, as Egypt prospered into the Middle Kingdom period, the wealthy became able to afford mummification. During the New Kingdom period of Egyptian history, even the poor could afford some level of mummification.

In addition to people, Egyptians mummified animals. For example, the crocodile was a symbol of the Nile river. People whose life depended upon the river may have chosen to worship the crocodile god which mummified crocodiles for religious ceremony. Throughout the course of Egyptian history animal mummification became so popular that it was big business. Since it was big business, there were incidences of corruption. I was surprised to learn about ibis birds and sticks being mummified to look like hawks in the video Egypt - Deities and Demons.

Pyramid Videos

Engineering an Empire - is a video series which details great engineering accomplishments of several different historical empires. The Egypt episode describes how pyramids, obelisks and temples were constructed.

Engineering an Empire - Egypt

Hidden Secrets of the Great Pyramid - Revealed - In the video a new revolutionary theory for the construction technique of the Great Pyramid at Giza is described in detail.

Gravity Lifting System

The main theory for building the Great Pyramid at Giza in the video Secrets of the Great Pyramid Revealed, suggests a pulley gravity based system was likely installed in the interior of the pyramid. Large stone blocks could have been lifted by attaching a counterweight. The counterweight may have been a container which workers could have filled with stones of lesser weight until the weight was sufficient to lift the pyramid block.

The counterweight system inside the pyramid likely ran on a track, where as ours was a hanging system. Nonetheless, the concept is the same.

Two objects are attached with a string or rope around a pulley or transition point at the top with little friction. When one object outweighs the other object, the heavier object will travel down and the lighter object will be lifted.

Canopic Jars

Canopic Jars were used to store organs during the mummification process in Ancient Egypt. The tops of the jars changed throughout time, but in later years they often contained an animal head. The book Ancient Egyptian Art (Art In History) briefly explained canopic jars. After reading a portion of the art book, my crafty seven year old began flipping through Crafts From The Past: The Egyptians and decided to make a paper mache canopic jar.

She began with a stout cardboard tube and stuffed a newspaper ball into the top. Next she taped the newspaper in place and added cardboard ears.
Well, she lost interest in this project and never finished...... but that's alright with me. She has done plenty of paper mache in the past, and now she knows about canopic jars.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas.

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