Rockland’s Rogers Middle School Students Mummify Chickens as Part of Study on Ancient Egypt

Rockland Public Schools
Superintendent Dr. Alan Cron
34 MacKinlay Way,
Rockland, MA 02370

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019

Contact: John Guilfoil
Phone: 617-993-0003
Email: [email protected]

Rockland’s Rogers Middle School Students Mummify Chickens as Part of Study on Ancient Egypt

ROCKLAND — Principal Beth Bohn is pleased to announce that Rogers Middle School students took part in a mummification project this winter. 

All seventh grade students began mummifying chickens in December as part of a project designed to align with their study of ancient Egypt and other early civilizations. 

The activity is organized and run by social studies teacher Joan Costello who read about the process on the internet a decade ago and decided to work it into the curriculum. Seventh grade teacher Jamie DesRoche was also involved in planning and running of the program.

“I thought it seemed like an incredible activity to do with my students,” she recalled. “So, for the last seven years I have led my students in the experience of embalming and wrapping a chicken.”

Every social studies class received a Cornish Game Hen to mummify. Students first learned about the process of mummification and why it was performed. They were then given individual responsibilities and tasks to complete as part of the process, including bringing in more than 40 pounds of salt for the project.

Following the customary burial practice, the mummification process began with a brief entrance and purification ceremony. Students then washed their chicken, applied spices and oils, and packed it with a combination of salt and baking soda called “natron.” The mummified chickens were left on a lab table for a week, and then the steps were repeated. 

“The kids love the whole thing,” Costello said. “It’s fun, goofy and incredibly interesting, all at the same time. Plus, the results are really remarkable.”

On Jan. 4, the chickens were wrapped for final entombment. As part of this stage, spells of luck and protection were cast on the chickens, and possessions and conopic jars were placed in the “tomb” with the chickens. Canopic jars are covered urns used in ancient Egyptian burials to hold the entrails from an embalmed body. 

To complete the process, students recited the Opening of the Mouth ceremony — a ritual performed by Egyptians that was believed to allow the deceased to eat, drink and speak in the afterlife. 

This June, students will re-enter and “raid” the tomb to see how the chickens may have changed, if at all, over five months.