Ancient Cultures

Members: Mickeymouse17, Harold, Mickeyfish,
The Rhino and HockeyTimbit

Mentors:  Mr. Tom Witherly and Matthew Gilbert

General Areas of Interest: Ancient Civilizations

Specific Areas of Interest: Ancient Egypt
Harold – Architecture and Engineering
The Rhino,  HockeyTimbit, and Niccthehit – Hunting and Warfare
Mickeymouse17 and Mickeyfish – Religion

Background Research:
When we were asked what we were interested in exploring this year, one thing we all had in common was an interest in ancient civilizations.  How we were going to create a scientific question to answer was not known. Our first challenge was to decide on an area of study.  After an enthusiastic discussion of ancient civilizations ranging from Ancient China to Ancient Mesopotamia we found that the one civilization we were all fascinated with and wanted to learn more about was Ancient Egypt.  

Matthew suggested that we try to find a mentor that could help us explore the Ancient Civilization of Egyptian.   We were fortunate to connect with a perfect mentor.  Mr. Tom Witherly, a retired Ontario Teacher,  was able to work with us here in Fort Nelson.  He has had firsthand experience in discovering the wonders of Ancient Egypt as he was given the task  to gather as much knowledge and information as possible to share with other teachers in his school district.  Here he is sharing his love and passion of Egypt.


Personal WorkSpaces:
Ancient Egyptian Architecture and Engineering by: Harold
Ancient Egyptian Religion and Beliefs by: Mickeymouse17 and Mickeyfish
Ancient Egypt Lifestyle and Warfare by Niccthehit by: The Rhino and HockeyTimbit

Below are some videos we watched on mummification:
The Egyptian Book of the Dead: A guidebook for the underworld – Tejal Gala
After watching the lecture by Egyptologist Bob Brier
Bob Brier, “Mummification: Resurrection of a Lost Art”
and watching, “How to make a mummy” – Len Bloch and researching other students investigations:
Sarcophagus Science: Mummify a Hot Dog
How to Mummify an Apple | Ancient Egypt

We decided…Artificial Mummification was an area we could all investigate further.  We wanted to create a question around finding out the effectiveness of each component of natron on preserving tissue.  According to Egyptologist Robert Brier,  natron is a combination of Sodium Carbonate,  Sodium Bicarbonate, and Sodium Chloride. Historical natron was harvested directly as a salt mixture from dry lake beds in Ancient Egypt,

Later we found out that Natron is a naturally occurring mixture of sodium Carbonate (Na2CO3·10H2O, a kind of soda ash) and around 17% sodium bicarbonate (also called baking soda, NaHCO3) along with small quantities of sodium chloride.

SKILLS OF INQUIRY: Since our group was focused on the Afterlife part of Ancient Egypt our question is : How effective are the components of Natron individually compared to what the Ancient Egyptians used .

As a demonstration of dehydration the Ancient Cultures group dehydrated the following   things:


  • apples
  • bananas
  • potatoes
  • grapes
  • hotdogs
  • strawberries


Here we are preparing the specimens for dehydration.  First we had to figure out how to use our new scales.  Each specimen was weighed before being place and labeled on the dehydrating tray.  Each group did this and recorded the weight in grams before drying.

Group 1Group 2Group 3Group 4

The next day each group gathered our labelled trays and weighed each specimen again.

As you can see we had 4 sets of data that we had to share and analysis.  Since the high school was already piloting the use of Google G-Suite, students agreed that the use of Google Sheets would be a great way to share our data and combine our results. G-Suite is a collection of online tools that are designed specifically for universities and K-12 school districts, and provides access to powerful district-managed online collaboration and productivity resources.  Permission/Consent forms were sent home and those students who returned their signed consent forms imputed the data.  The data Dehydration 1-4 was shared with all students.

Take a Look at what we are DehydratingItems TestedPercentage of Water Loss
Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 2.43.26 PM
Average %age of Water Loss
Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 4.22.20 PM

Our question is, which component of natron used for mummification will be most effective at dehydrating a potato.

HYPOTHESIS: We know that salt is commonly (and was historically) used to preserve food, especially meat. Salt draws water out of cells through the process of osmosis. Osmosis works because water moves across a cell membrane to try to equalize the concentration of salt on both sides of the membrane. We also knew that organisms that decay food  are killed by a high concentration of salt. People would often salt fish like cod, herring and make salt cured meat like bacon.

Based on what we know about salt we hypothesize that the Meditterraen sea salt will be most effective at dehydrating a potato.


  1. Create 20 mummification specimens from potatoes. Cut two slices equal width from the centre of each  potato.
  2. Prepare 300 ml each of salt, baking soda, soda ash and natron (51ml of baking soda, 15ml sea salt and 234ml soda ash)
  3. Pour a little bit of each mixture into a bowl
  4. Put the potato slices into the bowl
  5. Pour the rest of the mixture on top of the potato
  6. Let the potato sit for a week, checking daily on the potatoes and weighing them



Potato SamplesSoda AshMed. SaltBaking SodaNatron
Potato 1
Day 3
IMG_0071Med Salt P1Baking Soda P1Natron P1
Potato 2
Day 3
IMG_0102Med Salt P2Baking Soda 2Natron 2
Potato 3
Day 3
Soda Ash P3Med Salt P3Baking Soda P3Natron P3
Potato 4
Day 3
Soda Ash P4Med. Salt P4Baking Soda P4Natron P4
Potato 5
Day 3
Soda Ash P5Med. Salt P5Baking Soda P5Natron P5
Potato SamplesSoda AshMed. SaltBaking SodaNatron
Potato 1
Day 4
IMG_1458Med.  Salt D4IMG_1456IMG_1455
Potato 2
Day 4
Potato 3
Day 4
Soda Ash 3IMG_1449IMG_1448IMG_1447
Potato 4
Day 4
Potato 5
Day 4
Day 7
Day 7
Day 7
Day 7
Day 7


Weighing the Potato Mummy SpecimensLooking at Our ResultsLooking at Our Results
Results 1IMG_1523
Potato Mummification Experiment Raw Data (weight in grams)Potato Mummification Average Weight(in grams) over Time
Mummificatin Raw  DataScreen Shot 2017-05-15 at 2.18.56 PM
Mummification (Average Percentage of Weight Remaining)
Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 2.19.26 PM
Mummification (Average Percentage of Weight Remaining)
image (1)



The purpose of our investigation was to determine which component of natron used for mummification would be most effective at dehydrating a potato. Based on the results of the experiment, we have determined that Soda Ash and natron are certainly the best at dehydrating neutral organic matter, such as a human body.  Baking Soda and Sea salt were the worst at dehydrating the test subjects. Based on these findings we can conclude that natron was effective for mummification because soda ash is the most effective, and natron has a lot of soda ash in its chemical structure.

Our results did not support our hypothesis which was that the Mediterranean sea salt would be most effective at dehydrating a potato.

About Our Investigation

After dehydrating a variety of foods we contemplated using apples, strawberries or potatoes because they all demonstrated over 80% water loss.  We think the reason the “potato” was the best choice for our mummified test subjects was that a potato has a pH of 6.1 which is closest to the human body, which maintains a pH of about 7.3.   We were tempted to use the Apple and Strawberries and later realized that because they have a pH of about 3.1 – 3.3, they are quite acidic and would have created a chemical reaction with the baking soda… that would blow the results out of proportion. It is quite fortunate that we went with the Potato.


The fact that Natron was available and was excellent at preservation and mummification monumentally changed Egypt’s Culture, monuments, and history as a whole. What if Natron wasn’t discovered in Egypt, how would things differ?  Would the Ancient Egyptian Civilization have expanded?   Would their religion even have existed?  Who knows how their civilization would have developed with the preserving qualities of natron.



Hey Egypt Group,

This page looks great and really captures the detailed process you went through to develop your research question, plan and execute an effective experiment and discuss your results. The high quality of your data allowed you to tease apart small differences between the types of salt and form clear conclusions. I have commented above about one important take-home message about natron that I thought could be worded more precisely but overall I think your project went very well. 


We have made all the changes you have suggested and have put them through into the project page. thank you very much matt.

    -Egypt group