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Excavating King Tut's tomb.

For several years I have been teaching a six-week unit on the history of art to my sixth graders. We begin with prehistoric art and end with the Renaissance. The projects that elicit the most enthusiasm by far are those centered around ancient Egypt. Mummies, tomb-robbing and ancient curses seem to capture the imagination of all ages.

The idea to recreate some of the treasures from King Tut's tomb came from the Metropolitan Museum of Art's catalog of King Tut reproductions. Many of the objects seemed to be made of materials that I often use in my art classes.

We began the project by viewing the film Of Time, Tombs, and Treasures: The Treasures of King Tutankhamen, available without cost from the National Gallery Extension Service, Washington, DC. Our second day was spent in the library, where the assignment was to write a paragraph on who King Tut was, and another on how his tomb was discovered. Before the project was over, students were also to fill out an index card that described their projects and how they were made.

The next step was to divide the class into six groups. Students could choose between: (1) gold face mask; (2) jewelry; (3) a bas-relief craving; (4) tomb paintings; (5) gold repousse; and (6) clay. Students met in groups to decide whether to make individual projects or a single group effort. Below is a description of the different projects and the materials used.

Gold Face Mask

Materials: plaster, Vaseline, gold, black and turquoise paint, cardboard. The face mask of King Tut was made by making a plaster cast of one student's face. Cardboard was added for the wig and chin piece. The face was then painted gold and turquoise with black accents.


Materials: turquoise, Egyptian paste, gold-colored foil. Egyptian paste is a self-glazing clay commonly used in ancient Egyptian jewelry. It is available from ceramic suppliers and art supply catalogs. Students used it to make a variety of shaped beads. The beads were fired on a kiln-washed shelf and rough spots were sanded with sand-paper. The gold foil was used to make repousse pendants, bracelets and gold beads.

Bas-Relief Carving

Materials: plaster of Paris, Styrofoam meat trays (1" deep), compasses, scissors, knives for carving. The plaster was mixed and poured into meat trays. Students drew an Egyptian figure, animal hieroglyph, etc., on a corresponding size piece of paper. The drawing was transferred to plaster, and the outline was etched into the surface using a compass point (1/4" deep). Carving tools were used to carve down the background to raise the figure. The figure itself was carved so it had several layers and rounded edges.

The students finished the carving by painting it.

Tomb Painting

Materials: brown craft paper, colored pencils. Students worked together to make a mural of figures that were on the walls of King Tut's tomb. Individual figures were drawn on paper and colored in. Hieroglyphs were drawn in the background.

Gold Repousse

Materials: gold-colored foil, pencils. Students used reference materials to develop drawings of scenes from Egyptian life. Pieces of 8 x 8" (20 x 20 cm) foil were used. The edges of the foil were folded under first--for safety and for straight sides. The drawing was placed over the foil and traced. The lines were then redrawn with a pencil. Working from the back will give a raised line; from the front, a recessed line. A combination of both lines was used. The students worked on a soft surface (a magazine) and mounted the foil on mat board.


Materials: clay, glazes or paint. Clay was used to make a variety of objects from the tomb: chalices, statues of figures and animals, and the head of King Tut as a young boy. The pieces were fired, and then glazed or painted with gold tempera paint.

When all the pieces were finished, the class designed a flyer that had background information on King Tutankhamen and the objects in the exhibition. The "excavated" objects were displayed at a P.T.A. meeting, then in a glass display case in the front hall. The students enjoyed this project and learned about art, ancient Egypt, archeology, preparing a museum exhibition, and mostly about working together!
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Title Annotation:sixth grade art history project
Author:Weber, Meryl
Publication:School Arts
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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