Make an Egyptian Circlet

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Have you ever noticed that in lots of Egyptian paintings people are wearing bands round their heads? Some seem to look like they are made of gold, some of the ones worn by royalty have snakes or animals at the front. Others have patterns similar to the collars they wear. So what are they? This needed some further investigation.

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It turns out that these things are known as circlets, and were popular in ancient Egypt. They were worn by both men and women, and by rich and poor. At first they were simple bands made of woven reeds used to keep long hair in place. Plain linen circlets that were knotted at the back were also popular, and it was fashionable to tuck some lotus blossoms or other flowers into them.

circlet ladies

Of course, the rich started to make their circlets more elaborate, and started using gold wire instead or reeds or linen, and gems and beads instead of flowers. Kings and Queens would wear gold circlets  mounted with a vulture or a cobra which were symbols of royalty. Have a look at this beautiful one which was found in the tomb of  Princess Sit-Hathor Yunet, a sister of the Pharaoh.

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                                                     (photo: Hanns Ollerman, from Wikimedia Commons)
 

So inspired by this we decided to make our own version. Here is how we did it:

Make your own Egyptian circlet

You will need:

  • some thin card ( a cereal box is ideal)
  • gold paint – spray paint in quickest, but other paint will work too.
  • small amounts of acrylic paint in other colours
  • glue

Cut some long strips of the card about 3cm wide and glue them together so they fit snugly round your head.

Cut out a snake shape and bend it round a pencil to make the curves of the cobra. Stick the base of the cobra to the bottom of the circlet. Use a small piece of card to attach the top to the top of the circlet.

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Cut out some round circles out of card – a 10p is a good template, but some golden chocolate coin wrappers would be even better if you happen to have any.

Spray all of the card gold, then decorate with the acrylic paint.

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Finished!

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The mystery of the Egyptian perfume cone

Tomb painting showing cones on the head

Tomb painting showing cones on the head

 

Have you ever noticed the strange cone things on peoples head in Egyptian tomb paintings?

Most history books will probably tell you that these cones were made of perfumed wax, oils or fat, which people would wear on top of their wigs to parties and feasts. I think the idea is that in the heat of the night the wax or fat would melt releasing wonderful smells and moisturising oils.

What do you think? It seems a little bit odd. The cones look like they have some sort of yellow petals or drips at the top. They seem to be worn mainly by women but also by men. They are worn by musicians and servants as well as the rich party goers. Why didn’t the cones just fall off? What kept them on?

In an attempt to see what these cones were all about we decided to have a go at making some.

How to make a perfumed cone

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You will need:

  • Some beeswax and/or lard, you could also try melting down some old candles
  • Some perfumed oils, flower petals or anything else you can think of to decorate your cone.
  • A mould – we had an old candle mould, but we also used an old yogurt pot (in Ancient Egypt these cones came in a lot of different shapes and sizes!)

Firstly you will need to melt the wax or lard. The wax needs to be melted in a double boiler on the stove so you will need to get a grown up to help with this. The wax goes into a old tin in a pan of gently boiling water and should melt slowly. The lard can go straight into a pan to be melted.

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Once they are melted you can stir in the perfumed oil.

Put some petals or other decoration into the moulds then gently pour in your lard or wax.

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Leave it to set.

Egyptian head cone made from animal fat and oils

Egyptian head cone made from animal fat and oils

 

Once it is cold and hard you can take it out of the mould.

Egyptian head cone made from beeswax

Egyptian head cone made from beeswax

The results – what do you think?

  • Would you like to wear one on your head?
  • Are you able to balance it on your head?
  • Does it smell nice?

Our one made of lard was a bit yukky and squidgy to be honest, and it still smelt of lard even though we had put lots of perfume in it. Nobody wanted to put it on their head!

The beeswax one was just like a scented candle – we don’t think it would ever melt and it didn’t smell very strongly.

What other clues are there?

Archaeologists have never actually found a cone, nor anything like a mould that could have been used to make them, although they knew that the Egyptians certainly used to wear perfumed oils.

There is no direct evidence to suggest that these were made of perfumed wax, oils or fat, it was just an idea that someone had and no-one else could come up with a better one.

Some recent studies have suggested that the cones were used as symbols in the tomb paintings rather than being real objects. Maybe the cone shows that the person was wearing perfume, or perhaps it represents the soul of the dead person.

So what do you think they are?

  • a) cones made of perfumed wax, oils or fats
  • b) a symbol to show that person was wearing perfume
  • c) a symbol to represent the soul of the dead
  • d) none of the above!

Maybe you have a better idea! Please let me know if you do.

 

 

 

Wrap a mummy

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Sadly it has been a bad year in ancient Egypt, not only has the great apple Pharaoh died, but now the Vizier and his wife have succumbed to illness too. They have just been mummified and now have to be wrapped before being put into their tomb.

 What you will need

(Modroc can be messy so please check with a grown up and use an area that can be easily cleaned. Aprons would also be a good idea!)

  • a couple of wooden pegs
  • some modelling clay
  • a black pen
  • one roll of modroc (plaster of paris bandage) We used one of 6cm width cut into two 3cm wide strips.
  • a small bowl of warm water

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First we made the Vizier and his wife with the pegs and modelling clay – this helps to give the mummy a more realistic shape. We also had fun drawing on the funerary mask and giving them some jewellery. We placed  a small heart scarab on their chests to help them in their journey to the afterlife.

Next dip your modroc into the water for a few seconds to allow the water to soak in.

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Lift it out and squeeze out most of the water

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Find the end of the roll and start to wrap it round and around your mummy, making sure you get some round the bottom of their feet and head.

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Once the roll is finished use a few drops of water to shape and smooth the surface of your mummy.

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To make this process more authentic you could place some charms, such as scarabs or ankhs in the bandage as you wrap it and perhaps say a few prayers or incantations.

The mummies are now ready to be placed in their sarcophagus

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How to make an Egyptian armlet

Jewellery was very important in ancient Egypt and was worn in both life and death. It was worn by men and women equally. Almost every burial found has had some form of jewellery with it; so it must have been important to wear it on your journey to the afterlife.

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Many tomb paintings show both men and women wearing bracelets, armlets and anklets. Here is a quick and easy way to make some. You will need some old toilet roll cardboard tubes, some scissors, glue, paint, string and any other bits and bobs you have lying about.

Firstly, cut the cardboard tubes into pairs of similar depth, then make a slit down one side.

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We have stuck some string on now to give more texture to the finished armlet, but you could leave this bit out or stick string in a different pattern.

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Paint the armlets gold – we used spray paint which is quick and easy, but any gold paint would work well.

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Now you can decorate the armlets in any way you want – you could stick on some gems or beads, paint them with different colours or glitter glue, stick on some clay shapes; whatever takes your fancy. Remember to make a pair that match.

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In many tomb paintings bracelets and armlets are both worn and sometimes even anklets too! So make plenty.

We would love to see some of your finished armlets, so email pictures of them to gallery@timetravellerkids.co.uk or let us know how you got on.