|How did families long ago make a difference in our world today?|
Every child in your classroom comes to school with a history—ancestors and roots of his or her own. This background often has a great influence on the present circumstances of children. Even where they live today may have much to do with decisions that their forebears made many years ago. By delving further into family stories—those of your children and others that they will read about— the children will start to see links between their own lives and things that took place years before they were born.
What Primary Sources Can Tell Us about Families Long Ago
Since time immemorial families have been passing down stories, culture and tradition to future generations. These in turn have been preserved in the form of keepsakes, relics, and other memorabilia.
Egyptian Wall Painting of a Harvesting Scene from the Tomb of Sennedjem
Great Colonnade, Temple of Luxor
The tomb of Sennedjem was discovered by Italian archeologists in 1886 working on the west bank of the Nile River at Luxor (ancient Thebes). The scientists found the tomb undisturbed. It contained twenty mummies, furniture, and the tools of a skilled tomb worker – a cubit rod, a right angle, and a plumb level. The main occupant of the tomb is Sennedjem, a tomb worker who built and decorated royal tombs in the nearby Valley of the Kings. He lived during Egypt’s 19th Dynasty (13th century b.c.), during the reigns of Seti I and Rameses II. Scientists believe Sennedjem outfitted his own tomb. Every internal space is covered by paintings and hieroglyphics. The image depicts Sennedjem and his wife Iyneferty sowing, plowing, and harvesting wheat. Scientists believe the painting is intended to show them in the afterlife, dressed as they are in white, pleated cloth, enjoying a bountiful harvest. Today the tomb of Sennedjem and his family is the most frequently visited of the workmen's tombs.
Tutankhamen's tomb and burial chamber
Bread in Ancient Egypt
Bread has been called a “staple of life.” This means that it is a basic ingredient of peoples’ diet. As this ancient Egyptian wall painting shows, this has been the case for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians, the first people known to cultivate wheat and barley, are also credited with being the first bakers. In this activity, the children will find out how bread was made then. They will then compare that with the process used today.
Bread Making Then and Now
1. Enlarge or pass around a photograph of 4,000 year-old bread. Ask the children if they have any ideas what it may be. Once you’ve solicited a number of responses, tell the children that it is a picture of a triangle-shaped loaf of bread that was baked in Egypt in about 2,000 B.C.
2. Ask the children if they have ever helped make a loaf of bread from scratch or if they have watched someone else do it. If so, ask them to describe the steps that were involved. Then tell the children that, in many ways, the steps are not all that different from those involved in making bread long ago when the loaf of bread in the picture you showed them was made. Write down each of these steps (the words in bold) on a chalkboard as you elaborate on what was involved in each step. (If you’d like, combine and thus shorten the number of steps for the children. For example, you might start with step d, after the wheat has already been grown.)
3. Distribute a copy of the wall painting from ancient Egypt to each child. (This can also be found on page 24 of your Primary Sources Handbook.) Ask the children which step(s) in the bread-making process they think the ancient Egyptians were trying to show when they made this wall painting. (In this picture the wheat is being cut and gathered.)
4. Organize the children into pairs, and assign each to a different step in the ancient Egyptian bread-making process. (Do not assign anyone to the process of cutting and gathering the wheat, as this is already illustrated in the primary source page that you distributed.)
5. Distribute art supplies (crayons, markers, and drawing paper) to each team of children. Using these, direct the children to draw their own “wall painting” of the step in the process that they were assigned. Encourage the children to refer to the Egyptian wall painting to get a sense of the art style used back in ancient Egypt—and to model it as much as possible.
6. In correct chronological order, have child pairs share their drawings with the class. When they’re done, if you’d like, share additional images from Egyptian wall paintings showing the grain harvesting process Children can then compare their own drawings with those made in days long ago.
7. Hold a class discussion about what the children have learned, focusing on a comparison between bread-making long ago and today. Use these questions to help you:
8. After the discussion, invite the children to create a classroom “time line” display of bread-making in ancient Egypt by combining their own “wall paintings” with the primary source Egyptian wall painting in correct chronological order.
Additional Primary Sources
Image credits: a. Hisham F. Ibrahim/Getty Images; b. © Royalty-Free/CORBIS