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.
Remove the shoebox lid, and choose one of the shoebox'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 shoebox's two long sides. The short side should only be attached to shoebox at the base.
Cut along the bottom of each of the shoebox's long sides, detaching them from the base of the shoebox. The long sides should only be attached to the shoebox's other short side. Flatten the cut shoebox 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 shoebox'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 shoebox's two long sides to the modified base and short side. The shoebox will now have one short side that is wider than the other, creating a tapered end.
Repeat Steps 1 through 6 with the shoebox lid.
Cut two pieces of brown butcher paper, one large enough to wrap the shoebox bottom entirely, including the inside. Cut another piece large enough to completely wrap the shoebox lid. Crumple the two pieces of paper and flatten them for an ancient look. Wrap the shoebox bottom and lid separately.
Draw an Egyptian face at the larger end of the shoebox 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 colour.
Draw images on the inside and outside of the shoebox 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 favourite activities and possessions were also common. Research hieroglyphics and write the deceased's name or descriptions of the drawn scenes.
Tapering one end of the shoebox gives the coffin an anthropomorphic look, but early Egyptian coffins were rectangular, so it is perfectly acceptable to leave the shoebox as is and start with Step 8.
Tips and warnings
- Tapering one end of the shoebox gives the coffin an anthropomorphic look, but early Egyptian coffins were rectangular, so it is perfectly acceptable to leave the shoebox as is and start with Step 8.