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Experiment: Make a Fruit Mummy

The ancient Egyptians preserved human bodies after death by making them into mummies. A body is mummified by removing most of the moisture from it so that it is difficult for bacteria to thrive inside it and cause decay. The Egyptians did this by covering the body with natron. Natron is a naturally-occurring desiccant. A desiccant removes water from material with which it comes into contact.

You can make a mummy out of a slice of fruit by covering it with a desiccant and letting it draw the water out. You will be using a mixture of baking soda and salt as the desiccant. These are some of the substances in natron.

STEP 1: You will need a small apple, a knife, a box of baking soda, a box of table salt, two disposable plastic drinking cups and a measuring cup.

STEP 2: Cut the apple in two, then slice one of the halves in half again. You can discard the half (eat it if you want) and put each of the remaining quarters into one of the two plastic cups. If you have a sensitive scale, weigh one of the cups and write the weight down.

STEP 3: Fill the measuring cup with baking soda up to 1/3 mark. Then add salt until the cup is filled up to the 2/3s mark. Mix the salt and baking soda together in the cup.

STEP 4: Pour the mixture into the cup that you weighed. Make sure all of the apple slice is completely covered.

STEP 5: Put the cups on a shelf somewhere out of direct sunlight for one week. The uncovered cup will serve as a control to see what happens if the apple slice is left untreated.

STEP 6: After a week, check on your apples. The uncovered apple slice will have rotted. Carefully pour the mixture out of the cup with the covered apple. Do not wash it. Compare the mummified apple to the control apple. Which is better preserved? In most cases, the mummified slice will be shrunken and the skin black, but there will be no mold or rotten areas.

Weigh it if you weighed it before. Has it lost weight? The difference between the two weights is the amount of water the apple has lost during mummification.

STEP 7: Discard apples and clean up.

Copyright Lee Krystek, 2000. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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