JUN
06
2011

Expedition Earth: Egyptian Mummy Experiment

Oooh, Egyptian Mummies, who could resist? As part of my Expedition Earth Egypt activities my kids couldn’t wait to mummify an apple this week! They’ve been talking about it for awhile now, kind of like the Brazilian Rainforest Diorama.

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The ancient Egyptian mummification process is quite lengthy. It typically lasts approximately 70 days and begins first by removing all of the organs from the body. The organs would then be washed, dried, then placed inside containers called canopic jars that were eventually buried with the body. A salt mixture commonly found along the Nile River was typically used to aid in the drying process of both the body and the organs. The bodies were then wrapped using yards of linen fabric before being placed in their coffin. Some bodies such as King Tut were encased in 3 coffins!

We didn’t do all that.

We just tried to preserve a few apple slices.

And it was fun.

Supplies:

  • 2 fresh apples
  • large box of table salt
  • large box of Epsom salts
  • large box of baking soda
  • Knife
  • Eight 12-oz disposable plastic cups
  • Measuring cups
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Pen or marker, paper and pencil
  • (optional) sensitive balance or food scale

Directions:

1. Slice the two apples into quarters so that you have eight slices similar in size. Place a piece of tape on each cup and write the words “starting weight.” Select one slice, weigh it, and record the weight on the outside of cup 1. Follow the same procedure with the other seven apple slices until each cup has been labeled with the appropriate starting weight. If you don’t have a scale, try to cut all the apple pieces to the same size.

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2. Put 1/2 cup of baking soda into cup 1, making sure to completely cover the apple. Write the words “baking soda only” on the outside label.

3. Fill cup 2 with 1/2 cup Epsom salts and label.

4. Fill cup 3 with 1/2 cup table salt and label.

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5. Fill cup 4 with 50:50 mix of Epsom and table salt then label.

6. Fill cup 5 with 50:50 mix of table salt and baking soda and label.

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7. Fill cup 6 with 50:50 mix of baking soda and Epsom salts and label.

8. Fill cup 7 with a mixture of 1/3 baking soda, 1/3 Epsom salts, and 1/3 table salt and label.

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9. Fill cup 8 with just an apple slice, nothing else.

10. At this point, seven cups should have an apple piece and 1/2 cup of salt mixture. Cup 8 should have just a piece of apple as control for the experiment.

11. Place the cups on a shelf out of direct sunlight and let them sit for seven days.

12. After a week has gone by, take out each apple slice, brush off as much salt as possible, and re-weigh. (Do not rinse the apple off because that will rehydrate it.).

13. Compare the starting and ending weights of each slice and calculate the percentage of weight which is moisture lost for each by dividing the difference in weight by the starting weight. If you don’t have a weigh scale, put the apple pieces in order of size (make sure to keep track of which piece was in which cup!

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14. Discuss which solution worked to preserve the apple best. Ours was the salt mixture.

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If you have a chance, visit your local museum to see real mummies and learn the process they went through to preserve their dead.

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Click here to see the rest of our Expedition Earth Egypt activities!

Click here to learn more about my Expedition Earth World Geography curriculum!

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Comments

  1. Great project! My kids loved learning about Egyptian Mummies this year with my first grader's history. I bet they'd really enjoy this project. I'm bookmarking it!

  2. We did this one this school year too, and I think it was our favourite!

  3. This is great! When I studied mummies with the boys years ago there was a project using a chicken. I was so icked out that I never did it. I like the apple idea. :) Great job, kids!

  4. We started this last week with our apple unit. Today we get to see the results. My kids are so excited to see what has happened.

  5. Hi, I was wondering if this would work after leaving the apples for around 3 weeks? I would love to do this with my students this week but they are going on vacation from Thursday so it doesnt leave us much time.

    • Hi Katie,
      I’m thinking 3 weeks might be pushing it. They might all get moldy, I’m not sure. I guess it will be a surprise!

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