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Make Your Own Canopic Jars
Learn about Canopic Jars and model a set of four containers used by ancient Egyptians to hold mummified remains. Different tops are contstructed over plastic squeeze bottles. The symbolic meaning of each of the four different jar tops is discussed.

Jarie Ruddy, The Roeper School, Bloomfield Hills



  • one small plastic squeeze jar or bottle -with top -per student(a good recycling project or see Preparation and Resources to purchase)
  • Pariscraft or similar pre-plastered gauze rolls (can precut into 2-inch wide pieces)
  • Self-hardening modeling material - like Crayola´s Model Magic available in 2 lb. tubs

Have on hand:
  • acrylic or tempera paint
  • paint brushes
  • masking tape
  • paper towels
  • pencils or clay working tools
  • thin-tipped non-toxic black markers
  • covered work surface
  • aprons or paint shirts
  • small bowls of water to moisten Pariscraft

Activity takes place over 5 sessions; for Session 1 see Preparation and Resources

Session 2: Jar Bottoms
Teacher demonstrates and students then form jar bottoms by first applying wadded-up paper towels and masking tape to build up a more "canopic-like" shape. Then Pariscraft is applied in overlapping layers and smoothed. Don´t cover jar tops; they will be used to form the heads in next session. Jars should be labeled with student name on bottom and allowed to air dry for a day or two. Allow 10 minutes for clean up.

Session 3: Creating a Head for the Canopic Jars
Teacher may want to review four types of heads used by the ancient Egyptians. Students can adapt one of these, or invent their own head (example: Canopic Cat Jar). Students remove top from jar and use a small amount of Model Magic to form the head directly on the cap. [Hint: The squeeze-type cap provides an armature for the modeling compound; this won´t work as well with flat tops.] Pencils or small clay tools can be used to form details. When completed, caps should be re-attached to jars to prevent mix-ups! Allow 2 days to dry.

Session 4: Painting the Canopic Jar
Teacher may review traditional materials used to make canopic jars - clay, stone and alabaster. Students can then paint their entire jar a solid color. We used gray for stone and ochre for alabaster. Allow jars to dry thoroughly.

Session 5: Decorating the Finished Canopic Jars
Provide students with handouts of commonly used Egyptian symbols and hieroglyphs to encourage them to add authentic details to their jars. Thin-tipped black markers were used. Jars are now ready to admire and display.

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