Proof of mummification dates back to 3200 B.C.E. Archaeologists have found hieroglyphics that detail how mummies are made. Egyptian mummies have since become a fascination for many people and been used in horror movies. The mummification process is complicated, but a simple version can easily be created. This experiment is suitable for science class or science fair projects.
Egyptians started out by just tossing the dead in a substance called natron. They would wrap the body with cloth and leave it in a sarcophagus, a type of stone casket. Over time, the process became more complicated. The brain and vital organs would be removed from the body. Natron, sand and sawdust would fill the abdominal cavity. The entire body would be covered in natron and left to sit for over a month. Finally, the body would be cleaned, packed with more natron and wrapped. It would be placed in a sarcophagus and left for scientists to discover many years later.
Foods to mummify
For a mummification science project there are a few good choices of foods to mummify. Hot dogs and apples work quite well. The best food to mummify, though, is a raw roasting chicken. It most closely resembles human flesh and bone. The experiment can be done with other fruits and meats to see how the mummification process affects them. The best foods are those that are high in moisture. They take longer to mummify and look the most disgusting when finished.
Natron is a natural salt more commonly known as baking soda. This household baking ingredient removes moisture from foods, the same way that moisture is removed from the human body during the mummification process. Other ingredients work, too. Try using table salt and powder bleach. Use a mixture of all three for a powerful natron.
The food to be mummified must be completely covered in the natron on all sides. If you use a chicken, fill the cavity with natron and completely submerge the whole chicken. The food should be kept in a container and stored in a dark place. The longer the food is left alone, the better it will mummify. Check the food after a week and then every few days. When the food stops shrinking in size, it is completely mummified. Chicken can take up to a month to mummify fully whereas fruits and hot dogs take up to two weeks.
At the end of the experiment you should have a shrivelled-up mummy that does not rot. The natron removes the moisture, and the lack of water shrinks the mummy. Without moisture, bacteria does not build up; bacteria is what causes decay. Once the food has been mummified it will forever remain that way.
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