When the ancient Egyptians mummified their deceased loved ones, they removed the internal organs from the body before they mummified the body. Each organ was deposited in a separate container known as a canopic jar. Each jar was a tall, vase-like container. The lid of each canopic jar was in the shape of the particular deity that protected that particular organ. The canopic jars were placed in the tomb with the mummified body before the tomb was sealed. Teachers of Egyptian studies can have their students make canopic jars as part of the lessons on Egypt.
Things You'll Need
- Containers with lids
Collect tall, round containers with lids, such as half-gallon ice cream cartons or oatmeal boxes. Clean the containers well.
Have the children decide which head design they want for the canopic jar lids. The head design depends on the organ stored in each canopic jar. Instruct the children to research which deities protected which internal organs and what was the specific head symbol for that deity. They should have a picture of the jar they want to make. A canopic jar for the large intestine would have a hawk head. A canopic jar for the liver would have a human head, a canopic jar for the stomach would have a jackal head and jar for the lung would have a baboon head.
Instruct the children to place a lump of air-dry clay on top of the container lids. The children should smooth the clay to the edges of the lids and then shape the clay upward in the middle. Then, ask the children to form a head shape. The children should push the lump of clay upwards to form a head, and then add features such as ears or a nose, as shown in pictorial representations for the specific deity for whom they are making a canopic jar.
Let the lid sculptures sit for one or two days until the clay is completely dry.
Give the children paint, brushes and markers to decorate the sculptures. They should add eyes and other facial features. The decorations should look similar to the pictures they found during their research.
Tell the kids to tape construction paper around the containers. They can then add Egyptian-style decorations such as hieroglyphs.
Tips & Warnings
- You can also use papier mache instead of air-dry clay. This is messier than clay, however.
- Have the kids learn how to write their names in hieroglyphics and then ask them to write their names on the canopic jars.