Mummy Magic

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Experiment Category: 

Objective: 

Discover how the Ancient Egyptians used drying as one step in the mummification process.

What You Need: 

  • 1/2 apple
  • 1 popsicle or craft stick
  • 1 medium-sized plastic bags that seals
  • Natron Solution: 1/4 cup table salt, 1/2 cup sodium carbonate (washing soda, sometimes called powder bleach - check the ingredients), and 1/2 cup baking soda
  • Stir together--this makes enough to do one apple. You may maximize this recipe as necessary.

To Do and Observe: 

Make the Natron solution (recipe above) in the plastic bag. Carve a face into the apple with the popsicle stick then stick the popsicle stick into the apple so you have a handle (like you were making a candy apple). Dip the apple into the Natron Solution until the face is covered, and leave the apple in the bag. Safety precautions: do NOT eat the apple or the Natron Solution; wash your hands after the activity and don't touch your eyes or mouth until you wash your hands. You might want to wear plastic safety goggles. Leave the bag open in an upright position to allow air to flow. Record your observations as your apple mummifies. What happens to the apple once it is covered with the Natron Solution? How much time does it take for the apple to turn into a "mummy"?

What's Going On: 

The Natron Solution dries the apple just as it would dry a human body to make a mummy. By eliminating moisture, you have eliminated the source of decay. Natron is made up of four salts: sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium chloride, and sodium sulfate. The sodium carbonate works as a drying agent, drawing the water out of the body. At the same time the bicarbonate, when subjected to moisture, increases the pH that creates a hostile environment for bacteria.

Parent/Teacher Tips: 

The mummification of the apple may take up to two weeks. Other suggestions for the mummification process: try using chickens or game hens. Adjustments would have to be made to the amount of Natron Solution used and the time allotted for the experiment. The Ancient Egyptians believed that mummification was necessary for eternal life. The soul needed a body to which to return. Challenge your children to research the afterlife beliefs of the Ancient Egyptians. Also challenge your children to research other cultures that practiced mummification. What other substances did the Ancient Egyptians use to make mummies? How did the Ancient Egyptians discover Natron? How long does it take for your apple to be mummified? What changes to the apple did you observe during the mummification process?