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Time raiders - death of a mummy

  • Key Stage 3
  • Popular Activity
  • Topical

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Problem solving
Topic: Microbes & disease

In this activity, students take on the role of time raiders. They evaluate evidence from a recently discovered mummy to work out how it lived and how it died. Through so doing, they learn about the function of its preserved organs.

The Double Crossed materials were developed by the Centre for Science Education at Sheffield Hallam University ( with funding from the Astra Zeneca Science Teaching Trust (

The AstraZeneca Science Teaching Trust provides financial assistance to help improve the learning and teaching of science in the UK.

11-14 How Science Works:
2.2 Critical understanding of evidence
a Obtain, record and analyse data from a wide range of primary and secondary sources, including ICT sources, and use their findings to provide evidence for scientific explanations.

2.3 Communication
a Use appropriate methods, including ICT, to communicate scientific information and contribute to presentations and discussions about scientific issues.

Published: 21st March 2009
Reviews & Comments: 13

Learning objectives


Personal Capability:
Creativity and problem solving – to think creatively when interpreting evidence, asking questions such as why? How? and What if?

Science and History:
• To use skills and knowledge from science and history to interpret evidence and draw conclusions.
• To recognise that the range of evidence available can affect the conclusion reached.

Success criteria:
To be successful the students will:

• Compare evidence from different sources and consider their value.
• Ask questions in relation to evidence such as why?, how? and what if?
• Reach conclusions based on consideration of more than one piece of evidence.
• Understand that additional evidence may have an effect on the conclusion reached.

Try the activity

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KS3 Science National Curriculum

Key concepts:
1.4 – Collaboration
a - Sharing developments and common understanding across disciplines and boundaries.

Key processes:
2.2 – Critical understanding of evidence
a – Obtain, record and analyse data from a wide range of primary and secondary sources, including ICT sources, and use their findings to provide evidence for scientific explanations.

2.3 – Communication
a – Use appropriate methods, including ICT, to communicate scientific information and contribute to presentations and discussions about scientific issues.

Range and content:
3.3 – Organisms, behaviour and health
a – Life processes are supported by the organisation of cells into tissues, organs and body systems.
c – Conception, growth, development, behaviour and health can be affected by diet, drugs and disease.

KS2 Science National Curriculum

Breadth of study statement
2a – Use appropriate scientific language . . . to communicate ideas and explain the behaviour of living things, materials, phenomena and processes.

Sc1 Scientific enquiry
Ideas and evidence in science
1a – That science is about thinking creatively to explain how living and non-living things work and to establish links between causes and effects.

Investigative skills – considering evidence and evaluating
2i – Make comparisons and identify simple patterns or associations in their own observations and measurements or other data.
2j – Use observations, evidence or other data to draw conclusions.
2l – Use their scientific knowledge and understanding to explain observations, measurements or other data or conclusions.
2m – Review their work and the work of others and describe its significance and limitations.

Sc2 Live Processes and Living Things
Humans and other animals
2b – About the need for food for activity and growth and about the importance of an adequate and varied diet for health.
2c – That the heart acts as a pump to circulate blood to vessels around the body including through the lungs.
2e – That humans and other animals have skeletons and muscles to support and protect their bodies and to help them move.
2g – About the effects on the human body of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs and how these relate to their personal health.

Key Stage 3 History National Curriculum

Knowledge and understanding of events, people and changes in the past:
2a – about characteristic features of the periods and societies studied, including the ideas, beliefs, attitudes and experiences of men, women and children in the past.
2b – about the social, cultural, religious and ethnic diversity of the societies studied, in Britain and the wider world.

Historical enquiry:
4a – how to find out about the events, people and changes studied from an appropriate range of sources of information, including ICT based sources (for example, documents, printed sources, CD ROMs, databases, pictures and photographs, music, artefacts, historic buildings and visits to museums, galleries and sites).
4b – to ask and answer questions, and to select and record information relevant to the focus of the enquiry.

Organisation and communication:
5c – communicate their knowledge and understanding of history in a variety of ways (for example, drawing, writing, by using ICT).

Running the activity

Introducing the Overall Task

Introduce and discuss the learning objectives for the task. Emphasise that the task is about thinking creatively when interpreting evidence, both historical and scientific, asking questions such as why?, how? and what if?

Display page 1 to introduce the context for the task. Explore students’ views on the situation shown. Explain to the students that in the following tasks they must use the evidence from the tomb to answer the questions posed by the archaeologist. Discuss what types of evidence might be found.

Running the Main Tasks

Organise the students to work in teams of 3 or 4.

Use cards cut from page 2 as a basis for a group activity – students match the pictures and descriptions of mummification, and then place in the correct order.

Page 3 asks the students to translate hieroglyphs found on a papyrus in the tomb. Page 4 is needed as a basis for translation. This activity could be started as a whole class task and then continued in groups. See historical note about hieroglyphs, below. The answer to this task is on page 13.

Then use page 5 as the basis for a group or whole class discussion about the evidence shown. Discuss possible scenarios for the marks on the skeleton and the contents of the 6 canopic jars. Refer back to the mummification process.

Page 6 asks the students to translate the hieroglyphs on the canopic jars to identify the body organs inside. Answers, from left to right: brain, stomach, heart, kidney, lung, liver. Then ask each group to focus on just three of the jars. Once they’ve made the translations, give students the appropriate information sheets from pages 7, 8 and 9 about the organs in the canopic jars.

Give students copies of pages 10 and 11 on which to compile a report about the mummy based on evidence obtained from all the previous tasks.

Once reports have been compiled they could be compared using whole class discussion, looking at some reasons why interpretation of evidence has varied and how using different sources of evidence can affect the conclusion.

Reviewing the Task

Discuss with the students the range and types of evidence they used. What science based evidence and what historical evidence was available? Which evidence had most value and why? What questions was it useful to ask when interpreting evidence?

Involve the students in reviewing the task using the assessment for learning Smart Grid on page 12.

Possible practical activities

The Time Raiders – Death of the Mummy activities were originally designed in conjunction with a practical activity based on the “excavation” of a mocked-up skeleton/mummy in a cardboard box/coffin slightly covered in sand. The skeleton (a science department resource) was covered with tissue and PVA glue. It was painted and wrapped with tea bag stained bandages. Cuts were made on a leg, an arm and a rib over the heart to provide further clues for options as to how the person might have died.

Six glass jars covered with brown paper tied with string were used to represent canopic jars. The cartouche (a carved tablet or drawing representing a scroll with rolled up ends) for the organ contained was written on each jar.

Historical note

Egyptians only used three, sometimes four, canopic jars which contained the stomach, intestines, lungs and liver. (For the benefit of these activities we have increased the number of jars to six to provide heart, brain and kidneys. Although historically inaccurate this provides more options in the deduction process.)

Egyptian hieroglyphs are phonetic. Students need to know that they represent the sounds and not the spelling of the word. Occasionally hieroglyphs contain a picture of the object they were commenting on rather than a phonetic representation, e.g. a drawing of a house to represent a house.

The person identified as the mummy in the task is Imhotep who was an architect who built a pyramid and was also linked to Egyptian medicine. He was later deified for his work with medicine.

Reviews & Comments

Write your online review to share your feedback and classroom tips with other teachers. How well does it work, how engaging is it, how did you use it, and how could it be improved?

Time raiders - death of a mummy review

Jan 13th, 2013

5 Star

great activity thanks

Reviewer: alison moss

Time raiders - death of a mummy

Jun 15th, 2011

5 Star

Excellent. Used this with three mixed ability year 8 classes. Thinking outside the box for gathering and evaluating evidence. Students loved it.

Reviewer: Laura Bremner


May 26th, 2011

3 Star

Really engaging activities. Kids loved it. Good for developing skills. It needs cutting down to fit in one lesson and is probably more relevant to the KS2 curriculum than KS3. However, fun if you have the time.

Reviewer: Debbie Archer

great activity

Dec 15th, 2010

5 Star

I used this with mixed ability year 7 class as our last lesson before xmas holiday. Made a great engaging stand alone lesson and an enjoyable end to the term.

Reviewer: Phil Starr

Time raiders - death of a mummy review

Jul 1st, 2010

4 Star

Great resource, used it with mixed ability & age group and the kids loved it. They were all engaged. Thank you

Reviewer: Louise Green


Jun 21st, 2010

4 Star

Great activity, we are using it in conjunction with organ dissections, kids love it!!

Reviewer: Rebecca Rogers


Jun 7th, 2010

5 Star

The Mummy activity was great. ~Although my little year 7 class managed to stick themselves to the desk and each other in the cut and paste part of the task. and lost the little red written bits that needed to match to the pictures. They loved the code breaking and the biology part of the activity and did learn the parts of the internal organs quickly.

Reviewer: Jane Doran

Very good

May 20th, 2010

5 Star

Great activity with our grammar school y7 girls. the translation of the papyrus took a while, and the fact that the spelling was phonetic rather than 'perfect' made it much more challenging and required them to think more creatively. Lots of APP potential here in terms of combining evidence from several sources to triangulate on a final conclusion.

Reviewer: Steve Hood


Dec 7th, 2009

5 Star

Excellent resource - fitted in beautifully with a unit of work on microbes.

Reviewer: Jacqueline Miller


Sep 10th, 2009

5 Star

This activity worked really with with a low ability year 7 group generating surprising questioning skills at different levels. Students enjoyed it.

Reviewer: carolyn long

Time raiders - death of a mummy review

Jun 22nd, 2009

5 Star

did with my year sevens. All of the classes seemed to enjoy doing it. Some of the less able seemed to struggle a bit though.

Reviewer: Melissa Coulson

Time raiders - death of a mummy review

May 16th, 2009

5 Star

this activity wasvery much enjoyed by my Y7 group. They competed against each other for the translation and this lead to a discusion about language - so cross curricular.
Subsequent lessons were taken up with pupils bringing in books and relevant items such as papyrus.
Some interesting theories being put forward as the cause of death.
in future I would set up the scenario withFred the Dead (our skeleton) especially for lower ability pupils and also have imput from History dept
This activity will be repeated

Reviewer: Michele Altham

Time raiders - death of a mummy review

Apr 3rd, 2009

5 Star

Engaged my disaffected and reluctant learners in my pupil referral unit. They enjoyed this as it was a 'cool' topic and did not seem like a lesson!! Made them think...and enjoy the process.

Reviewer: Shirley Agar