Monday, August 04, 2008

Buried birds teach students a lesson in mummification

Daily Gazette, Schenectady

Kim Coelho’s students found themselves on the hunt for mummies Friday, the last day of school.

They were only Cornish game hens, but they had been treated like royalty.

Friday was nearly six months after the sixth-grade history class treated three — then edible — Cornish game hens with the preservation and burial techniques used for Egyptian pharaohs. To finish the experiment, the students dug up the fowl buried in the Draper Middle School courtyard.

Amazingly, the birds didn’t look much different from how they were when the class first interred them. Once unwrapped, the birds appeared free of decay, though they had grown a bit darker and smelled distinctly of the spices the students had bathed them in.

“This is why the Egyptians did this, to preserve the bodies,” Coelho reminded her students.

Students spent parts of two months preparing the birds in the same manner Egyptians did more than four millennia ago. Coelho introduced the hands-on approach toward the subject to attract her class to a subject matter she previously taught from a textbook.

The class used a mixture of salt and baking soda to draw moisture from the birds and help limit any pungent aroma. They also bathed the birds in oil and spices.

No comments: