Monday, September 17, 2012

The Mummy Bandwagon

I have pretty strong feelings about teaching history in order, in context and at an age when it's relevant to the child. None of this memorizing stupid poems and dates without understanding the implications nonsense.

Mirth has reached the magical age when ancient history has her completely enamored, and she her reading/emotional/social understanding has matured to the point that she understands the subtler implications of a deeply different culture. (I make a silent "YES!!" motion to the side) 

So we're starting with ancient Sumeria and Egypt. Lark is still back on dinosaurs. She loves her some dinos. 

I took her to the used bookstore where I had to talk her out of an academic level manual an intro to archaeology and ancient Egyptian artifacts (in her defense, she understood some of it, but not all $20 worth XP), and so we settled on several excellent late-elementary level books on mummies, Egyptian culture and the afterlife. 

Then, because I'm much too squeamish at this point to mummify a squirrel >.<, we mummified a Barbie. Wine bath, herbs, perfumed oils, salt rub, amulets...the whole nine yards. The little girls helped make play dough artifacts for her "afterlife" and designed hieroglyphs for her shoe box "tomb". She wasn't a princess, and the first part of her life she was shy, but then, she lived a long, long happy life until she died suddenly and painlessly at the age of 82 in a war, surrounded by family who didn't get hurt. (Lark's version of the perfect life.) 

The following was Mirth's report on ancient Eygpt's burial rituals and afterlife beliefs...and I thought she wasn't listening! 

Tell about what the ancient Egyptians believed about the afterlife: 

      They thought that the soul split into two parts. They believed that the heart got weighed by Maat, who put the heart onto one side of the scale and the heart on the other. If the heart was as light as a feather or lighter, then they had done no bad deeds and they could sail across the Nile river to paradise (their heaven). The person who drove the boat was Ra the sun god. If your heart wasn't light, some sort of demon would eat you up or basically kill you. 

Talk about the mummification process: 
      First, they basically bathed the person in wine to kill the bacteria. Then, they took the organs out. All except the heart. They put the organs into pots or jars. And the brain, which they threw away. They rubbed it in herbsand spices and rubbed oils, frankincense and myrhh. Then, they poured salt all over the body and wrapped it inin cloth for 30 or 40 days. Then, they took the body out of whatever they'd been storing it in, and unwrapped itand wrapped it again in linen. Then they put it inside a stone sarcophagus. They brought it to the tomb and they put pots, food, cups, teapots, servants (poor servants!), sometimes their pets (cats, dogs, hamsters, parrots, parakeets). And, maybe, if they all died at the same time, their family. 
     It was expensive to mummify someone. At first, only kings, queens, princes and princesses were mummified. 
Later, people with enough money could be mummified, too. Thousands of people were mummified after that. 

Not all the facts are perfectly accurate, but it's not a terrible understanding. :O)

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