How to make a dummy mummy

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Having been interested in history for many years it was inevitable that when I retired from the police and saw a job advertised delivering history presentations to junior school children I just had to apply.

This was for Kirklees which involved an interview at Tolson Museum.

Part of the interview involved giving a five minute history presentation to the interviewing panel.

This could be on subject of my choice. My five minutes was on the humble pop bottle, the kind with the glass marble in. The presentation went well, a good start.

Then I had to look on a table and chose any item and talk about it for five minutes.

Not knowing anything about Roman helmets I chose a Second World War ration book.

Having got the job one of the presentations I was asked to do was an aspect of Egyptology - mummification. This was at Bagshaw Museum in Batley.

Having observed one of the other tutors - I then found myself in front of 25 junior school children all wanting to know about the removal of brains from a dead body.

Of course it was a dummy that I had laid out on a table. I invited those who wanted to be volunteers and help me mummify the dummy to step forward.

As always the nine year tough guys all stepped forward with just one or two girls rather sheepishly stepping forward and choosing to stand behind the boys.

Whilst no one actually fainted it was often the boys who declined the invitation to remove the rolled up sting (representing the dummy’s brains) with a length of wire (a stretched out wire coat hanger) and returned to their seats.

The girls were now made of sterner stuff than the boys and gladly joined in the demonstration.

They were also keen to help removed the vital organs (made of chalk) from the dummy’s body.

Each organ had to be mummified with bandages and then placed in a canopic jar, all part of the mummification ceremony.

Each body used four Canopic jars, each for the safekeeping of particular human organs: the stomach, intestines, lungs, and liver, all of which, it was believed, would be needed in the afterlife.

There was no jar for the heart: the Egyptians believed it to be the seat of the soul, and so it was left inside the body.

The final part of the mummification class was to choose one of the students to step forward to be wrapped in bandages like a mummy - now the boys were queuing up for this.

All this sounds scary stuff for nine year olds but being part of the national curriculum in those days these children wanted to know all the gory details. But of course no one in my class went home having nightmares.

In this week’s featured photograph from March 1995 are two students Tarlee Watts and Fraser Greenhalgh from Cliff Hill School at Lightcliffe. It looks as though they have been having lessons on Egyptology.

Bagshaw Museum still does educational programmes on various subjects and the mummification classes are still on the programme and very popular.

For further information please have a look at bagshaw.museum@kirklees.gov.uk  website or telephone 01924 326155.