How to Make an Ancient Egyptian Coffin Out of a Shoe Box

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Some ancient Egyptian coffins were shaped to resemble a human form.
Some ancient Egyptian coffins were shaped to resemble a human form. (Image: Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

The ancient Egyptians performed elaborate burial rituals to ensure the deceased were prepared for the after life. These rituals included decorating the coffin with intricate images and words. Early coffins had rectangular shapes while later coffins were anthropomorphic, resembling human form. The coffins were painted or carved with symbols, deities, special words and scenes from the deceased’s life. Kids can make a simple anthropomorphic coffin from a shoebox. The symbolic images used to decorate the coffins will teach kids about how ancient Egyptians viewed the life after death.

Things You'll Need

  • Shoe box
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Transparent tape
  • Brown butcher paper
  • Markers
  • Paint

Remove the shoe box lid, and choose one of the shoe box’s two short sides. Cut both the right and left edges of the short side from the top to the bottom, detaching the short side from the shoe box’s two long sides. The short side should only be attached to shoe box at the base.

Cut along the bottom of each of the shoe box’s long sides, detaching them from the base of the shoebox. The long sides should only be attached to the shoe box’s other short side. Flatten the cut shoe box shape.

Locate the short side that you cut in Step 1. Cut a 1-inch vertical strip off of the right edge of the side. Do the same on the left edge.

Align the ruler diagonally along the shoe box’s interior base. Position it from the upper left-hand corner of the base to the edge of the 1-inch cut you made on the left edge of the short side. Draw a line with the pencil, and cut along the line. Do the same on the right side. This will give the rectangular base a tapered end.

Use tape to reattach the shoe box’s two long sides to the modified base and short side. The shoe box will now have one short side that is wider than the other, creating a tapered end.

Repeat Steps 1 through 6 with the shoe box lid.

Cut two pieces of brown butcher paper, one large enough to wrap the shoe box bottom entirely, including the inside. Cut another piece large enough to completely wrap the shoe box lid. Crumple the two pieces of paper and flatten them for an ancient look. Wrap the shoe box bottom and lid separately.

Draw an Egyptian face at the larger end of the shoe box lid, complete with headdress and collar. It was common to decorate the lid of an anthropomorphic coffin to look like the deceased. Draw vertical and horizontal lines toward the tapered end of the lid to imitate the burial wrappings. Paint the drawing to add color.

Draw images on the inside and outside of the shoe box coffin with markers or paint. Common images on Egyptian coffins include false doors on the sides of the coffin so the deceased’s spirit could exit, and eyes so the deceased could see the outside world. Scenes depicting the burial ceremony and offerings made to the gods and scenes of everyday life, including the deceased enjoying his favorite activities and possessions were also common. Research hieroglyphics and write the deceased’s name or descriptions of the drawn scenes.

Tips & Warnings

  • Tapering one end of the shoe box gives the coffin an anthropomorphic look, but early Egyptian coffins were rectangular, so it is perfectly acceptable to leave the shoe box as is and start with Step 8.

References

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