Showing posts from February, 2017

Focus On: Canopic Jars

Jars can hold all kinds of good stuff: cookies, jelly, fruit...human internal organs.

In ancient Egypt, important people would be mummified before being put into their tombs. Naturally, they'd need their "ba" to live in the afterlife, or their "ka"might have to wander the earth as a ghost forever. As part of the mummification process, the internal organs would be removed and prepared separately. From a cut in the side of the body, the priests would take out the liver, the lungs, the stomach, and the intestines. After being dried in natron (salt and baking soda), the organs would be placed in specially prepared jars called canopic jars.

The canopic jars would have been placed in a separate chamber of the tomb for the pharaoh's afterlife. Each canopic jar had the head of a different god, considered a protector  of that particular organ. The four gods are considered the Four Sons of Horus. Horus was the god associated with the pharaoh, and was himself a son o…

The Process of Mummification

We all know that the Egyptians are most well-known for mummifying their important dead. While it was a little different depending on the time period, with human bodies the process in essentially the same:
Wash the body of the dead pharaohMake an incision of the side of the bodyRemove the four major internal organs (liver, lungs, stomach, and intestines)The four organs are salted, dried, and placed in canopic jars separatelyA large hook is shoved up the nose and the brain is mushed upThe brain is then drained out the noseThe heart is left in the body for Anubis to weighNatron (salt and baking soda) is stuffed into the body, and around itThe body is left for 40 days to completely dry outThe salt is changed several timesAfter it is dried, the body is washed of all the natronResin (tree sap) is poured on the body to seal it Beginning with the fingers and toes, the body is wrapped in linen stripsMagic amulets and good luck charms are placed in the wrappingsThe body is draped in a shroudThe…

Engineering an Empire: Egypt

The History Channel has a great series called Engineering an Empire We are watching a portion of the Egypt episode in class, particularly the segments devoted to the building of the pyramids. As we talked about in class, the pyramids developed over time to be what we think of as the Great Pyramids of Giza.

During the period known as the Old Kingdom (2686 - 2181 B.C.E.), the final resting places of the pharaohs changed from simple mastabas, to step pyramids, to smooth-sloped triangular pyramids.

The video is pretty long, so focus on the development of the pyramids and the effort that the Egyptians put into building them. 

Here's a great video animation of the construction of the pyramids. Remember to think about why the Egyptians are building these massive structures!

And be sure to check out this amazing website that describes the filming of the pyramids with drone-based cameras, and that has a 360-degree aerial tour of the site of Giza!…

Egyptian Deities and Religious Beliefs

Noun: A god or goddess (in a polytheistic religion)

Egyptians, like most ancient civilizations, were polytheistic. The important thing to understand about polytheistic religions is that the gods and goddesses REPRESENT ASPECTS OF NATURE. Keep this in mind when you're trying to understand how these religions developed.

For example, the Egyptians and Greeks both have deities that represent water, storms, the sky, death, an afterlife, love, war, and other concepts from the natural world or from human behavior.

God of the UnderworldHusband of IsisKilled by his brother, SetEgypt’s first mummyFather of HorusShown with green skin

Isis Queen of the godsWife of OsirisGoddess of love and beautyMother of HorusBrought her husband’s pieces to Anubis to be mummified

Anubis God of the deadShown with the head of a jackal on a human bodyGod of mummificationWeighs the heart of the dead person to see if they deserve a good afterlife

Horus Son of Isis and OsirisSky godShown with the head of a fal…

The Myth of Isis and Osiris

Summary of the Myth of Isis and Osiris
(taken from

The first son of Geb and Nut, Osiris was tall, slender, and handsome, with jet black hair. When his father, Geb, gave up the reigning power over Egypt and retired into the heavens, Osiris took over the kingship and married his sister, the beautiful Isis. Under his wise authority the Egyptians were persuaded to renounce cannibalism. He taught them farming and the pleasures of music, and he framed a just legal code for them. Egypt flourished peacefully under his rule.

Then Osiris went off to civilize the rest of the world and brought the same blessings to Europe, the Near East, and the Orient. In his absence Isis reigned as queen of Egypt and the land continued to prosper.

However, Osiris had an ugly and evil brother with red, coarse hair like an donkey's pelt. This was Set, a born plotter who envied the power and attractiveness of his elder brother. Set had another reason for hating Osiris: His own wife, Nephthys, …

Groundhog Day!

It is February 2, and that means that folks are looking to the groundhog to see if there will be six more weeks of winter. You can check out the most famous quadrupedal weatherman, Punxatawney Phil, out in western Pennsylvania or any number of imitators around North America (or celebrate Marmot Day in Alaska).

Even National Geographic has a story about the Groundhog Day tradition!

The origins of Groundhog Day date back to the earliest pagan rituals associated with the changing of the seasons. February 2 falls exactly between the first day of winter (the winter solstice) and the first day of spring (the vernal equinox), and so was very important to early astronomers.

In pre-Christian Europe the festivals surrounding Imbolc, the holiday marking the midpoint between winter and spring, often dealt with predicting the weather and checking for signs of spring, looking for hibernating animals to return or not. Later Christians incorporated the holiday of Candlemas to replace the pagan holid…