Bringing an Ancient Civilization to Life

An interactive, pop-up Egyptian Tomb Museum appeared in a classroom at Ross Lower School on April 12. From the Book of the Dead, to pyramid construction, to hieroglyphs, to Senet games, fifth graders explained aspects of Egyptian culture to visitors who included students from the lower grades as well as parents and friends.

The entrance to the museum was guarded by Anubis (portrayed by Schuyler VanTassel), and each visitor was challenged to “weigh their hearts” against an ostrich feather, representing a ceremony conducted in the afterlife in Egyptian mythology. Nearby, Maddie Ringelstein and Ellie Damiecki showed examples of clothing and jewelry worn in Ancient Egypt, and Orlando Narizzano demonstrated different types of canopic jars (containers that held the organs of mummified bodies).

At Ian Morgan’s station, visitors could play a game of Senet, one of the oldest board games known to civilization. The popularity of the station showed that Senet can still hold its own with kids raised on video games. Jaden Schapiro and Joshua Enright-Rabin put together a display on hieroglyphs and guided students as they made 3-D representations of the characters out of clay.

Ella Griffiths and Gianna Scala also used clay, helping younger students make small charms. Such charms, which sometimes took the form of snakes, ankhs (representing eternal life), or scarabs, would be wrapped in the layers of fabric during the mummification process (represented in this case by toilet paper and two large stuffed dogs). Diego Vanegas and Olivia Weiner explained the relationships and powers of the Egyptian gods, and India Galesi-Grant shared a replica of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, as well as a model of a tomb that students could crawl through.

A number of exhibits focused on the architecture of ancient Egypt. Laina Lomont presented an architect’s model of a typical compound inhabited by a family and their servants and animals. Tycho Burwell displayed a wooden pyramid that he had built himself, while Ava O’Shea put together a slideshow about pyramids and tombs and invited guests to draw their own tombs. Josie Smith spoke about the Sphinx and offered visitors the opportunity to create and decorate their own drawings of the monument.

Focusing on ancient Egyptian agriculture, Quentin Bazar modeled a shaduf, a structure used to transfer water from the Nile to crops along the river basin, and Grace Gaustad assembled a microcosm of the Nile in a wading pool, and shared bread and rice cakes similar to what Egyptians would have eaten.

At each station, the students spoke eloquently about what they had learned from their studies of the ancient time period, making the museum an amazingly effective demonstration of their knowledge. The interactivity and creativity contributed by the students made the experience an even more educational and enjoyable one.