Egyptian coffins, with their elaborate decorations and air of mystery, bring art history alive for children. Ancient Egyptians created the coffins to represent the figure inside and to prepare them for the afterlife. Today, kids will enjoy creating their own sarcophagi boxes to put a personal spin on an ancient art form. Spend some time viewing these designs with your children and talk about what symbols would represent their own lives. Once they have ideas, they'll be ready to make their own Egyptian sarcophagi.
Fold a thin piece of copy paper in half and draw one side of a mummy shape along the fold. The traditional shape will resemble a smaller half circle on top for the head and a larger, elongated oval for the body. Avoid drawing too close to the fold unless you want a very skinny body shape! If you are doing the activity with a large group, or if students are struggling, provide a general shape tracer to save time.
Cut the shape you drew out while it is still folded, just like when making a valentine heart. When you unfold the paper, you will have a symmetrical shape to trace for the bottom and lid of the coffin.
Trace the sarcophagus shape onto the Bristol board twice. These two pieces will form the top and the bottom of the coffin. To make the lid slightly larger and ensure a good fit, have your students draw a new shape that's about one-quarter inch larger than the original shape. This will ensure that the lid does not fall into the base when assembled.
Cut long, even strips of sturdy paper to form the sides of the sarcophagi. To save time, use a paper cutter and do this for your students.To add stability, fold a half-inch tab along the longer edge. Fit multiple strips together to wrap around the entire base of the design with the tab against the bottom of the coffin shape. Cut slits into the tabbed base to help fold the paper around the shape if needed. Tape the strips together on the inside to form walls, but don't attach them to the base yet.
Get out the pencils, coloured pencils and markers and let the kids get creative. Cover the sides and top of the sarcophagus with elaborate, Egyptian-inspired designs that also reflect their own interests. Remind them that the insides and bottom will also be visible when the sarcophagus box is assembled.
Use foil and felt scraps to add texture and interest to your design. Line or decorate the insides and base of the coffin as well.
Assemble the boxes. Tape or glue the tabbed bottom fold to the base to form walls. Set the lid on top and ensure that everything fits together.
Share the finished designs. Give students a chance to show off their Egyptian-inspired boxes and come up with stories and uses for them.
Try this project yourself before you share it with children. This will give you a visual example to show them and get you familiar with the process. Also, having several visual examples and guides to hieroglyphics on hand will help students and enhance the final product.
Tips and warnings
- Try this project yourself before you share it with children. This will give you a visual example to show them and get you familiar with the process. Also, having several visual examples and guides to hieroglyphics on hand will help students and enhance the final product.
Things you need
- Hieroglyphic alphabet
- Coloured pencils or markers
- Bristol board or other sturdy paper
- Sarcophagus shaped tracer from oak tag (optional)
- Copy paper or inexpensive sketch paper
- Bottle of glue or hot glue
- Gold or silver foil paper (optional)
- Felt scraps (optional)