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How to make canopic jars with kids

When the ancient Egyptians mummified their dead loved ones, they removed the internal organs from the body before preservation. Each organ was deposited in a separate container known as a canopic jar. Each jar was a tall vaselike container. The lid of each canopic jar was in the shape of the deity that protected that particular organ. The canopic jars were placed in the tomb with the mummified body before the tomb was sealed. Teachers of Egyptian studies can have their students make canopic jars as part of the instruction.

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  1. Collect tall, round containers with lids, such as ½-gallon ice cream cartons or oatmeal boxes. Clean the containers well.

  2. Have the children decide which head design they want for the canopic jar lids. The head design depends on the organ that is stored in each canopic jar. Instruct the kids to do research to find out which deities protected specific internal organs and what their specific head symbol was. They should come up with a picture of an example of the jar they want to make. A canopic jar for the large intestine would have a hawk head. The jar for the liver would have a human head, the jar for the stomach would have a jackal head and the lung jar would have a baboon head.

  3. Instruct the kids to place a lump of art clay that dries in the air on top of the lids of the containers. They should smooth the clay to the edges of the lids and shape it upward in the middle. Then they will form a head shape in the middle, depending on which head they are making.

  4. Let the lid sculptures sit for one or two days until the clay is completely dry.

  5. Give the children paint, brushes and markers to decorate the sculptures. They should add eyes and other facial features. The decorations should look similar to the pictures they found during their research.

  6. Tell the kids to tape construction paper around the containers. They can then add Egyptian style decorations such as hieroglyphs according to their research.

  7. Tip

    Use papier mache instead of air-drying clay. This is much messier than clay, however. Have the kids find out how to write their names in hieroglyphics and write them on the canopic jars.

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Things You'll Need

  • Containers with lids
  • Clay
  • Paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Markers

About the Author

Karren Doll Tolliver holds a Bachelor of English from Mississippi University for Women and a CELTA teaching certificate from Akcent Language School in Prague. Also a photographer, she records adventures by camera, combining photos with journals in her blogs. Her latest book, "A Travel for Taste: Germany," was published in 2015.

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