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Make a Mummy: The Science of Mummification



  • Arts & Humanities
    --Art History
  • Science
    --Life Sciences
  • Social Studies
    ----World History


  • 3-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12

Brief Description

Learn about the history and science of mummification by making an apple (or chicken) mummy.



  • learn about the history of mummification.
  • follow instructions to create an apple mummy.
  • explain in their own words what the experiment taught them about the process of mummification.


mummy, mummification, ancient, Egypt, apple, chicken

Materials Needed

  • apples (one for every four students)
  • plastic cups
  • baking soda
  • salt
  • a bowl for mixing the baking soda and salt
  • measuring cups
  • a scale capable of precise measurement (for weighing apple slices before and after)

Lesson Plan

When students hear of mummies, they might immediately think of ancient Egypt. But the fact is that many cultures mummified their dead. Mummies have been uncovered in China, Mexico, and many other places around the world. In many of those cultures, mummification was thought prepare the dead for a happy afterlife.

The process of mummifying a body is a time-consuming one. All water must be removed from the body. In ancient Egypt, that was accomplished by covering the body with a salt called natron and wrapping the body in bandages. In later years, the process became more sophisticated; body organs were removed and the body was packed with natron before it was wrapped.

Share with students more information about the histories of mummies and the mummification process. You might use textbooks or library books. The following Internet resource offers an overview of the process.

This authoritative resource comes from the British Museum.

In order to help students understand how the mummification process works, students can turn an apple slice into a mummy! Here are the simple steps they should take. Students might work in groups of four to complete this activity.

  • Cut through the top of an apple to slice it in half, and then in half again. Each student in the group will take one of the quartered apple slices.
  • Instruct each student to precisely weigh her/his apple slice.
  • Put the apple slice in a plastic cup.
  • Have each student thoroughly mix cup of baking soda and cup of salt.
  • Pour the baking soda/salt mixture over the apple in the cup so that the apple is completely covered.
  • Store the covered apples away from light and moisture for one (1) week.
Note: You might store one apple slice, uncovered, alongside the students' buried apples. Students will be able to compare what happens to their "mummified" apples to what happens to an apple that isn't treated with the salt mixture.
  • A week later, have students uncover their apple slices. What do they see? (The mummified apple will be shriveled up and its skin will have turned brown.)
  • Re-weigh the apple slice. How much does it weigh now? Why? (The apple weighs less because "mummification" dried up the water inside it.)

If you would like to explore more deeply the science of mummification, the following links will provide some ideas for doing that:

Extend the Lesson

  • Have students research and create for their apple mummies a sarcophagus (coffin) like the one in which a mummy might have been stored.
  • Have students create a "life history" for their mummies. For example, what was the mummy's family life like, what did s/he do for work, and how did s/he die?
  • If you are up for a more involved (and more fun) experiment, involve students in Making a Chicken Mummy. (Alternate source.)


Have students write a summary of the results of the experiment they performed. What did they learn about the mummification process from doing this experiment?

Lesson Plan Source

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins

National Standards

NS.K-4.1 Science as Inquiry
NS.K-4.2 Physical Science
NS.K-4.3 Life Science
NS.K-4.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
NS.K-4.7 History and Nature of Science
GRADES 5 - 8
NS.5-8.1 Science as Inquiry
NS.5-8.2 Physical Science
NS.5-8.3 Life Science
NS.5-8.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
NS.5-8.7 History and Nature of Science
GRADES 9 - 12
NS.9-12.1 Science as Inquiry
NS.9-12.2 Physical Science
NS.9-12.3 Life Science
NS.9-12.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
NS.9-12.7 History and Nature of Science

GRADES 5 - 12
NSS-WH.5-12.3 Classical Traditions, Major Religions, and Giant Empires

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