The Artefact

poem by Barry Smith , illustrated by Christopher Nielsen

Learning intention:

I am learning to connect my own experiences and existing knowledge to characters and events so that I can make meaning from texts.

Success criteria:

  • I can use graphic organisers to organise information.
  • I can conduct research to broaden my knowledge of a topic.
  • I can recognise the influence of historical experiences on texts.
  • I can identify the theme of a text by connecting it to my own experiences and existing knowledge.


Essential information:

  • More information about thematic statements can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Theme.


After reading the poem as a class, ask students what historical events it suggests. Don’t spend too much time explaining the meaning behind the poem, as this will be examined later. Discuss what students know about mummies and curses. Create a class KWLH chart, filling out the first two columns (what the students know and what they want to know) about mummies and curses. Students can add to the chart using sticky notes or writing their questions on the board about what they want to know.


Sample questions for the W column include:

Who was King Tut?

Why are mummies cursed?

What were pyramids built for?

How were mummies made?

What are some real examples of a curse?

Why do ancient artefacts turn to dust when exposed to air?


Students select a question from the W column of the chart to research. They can work in pairs to find the answer and write a short paragraph of information from their research. Encourage them to investigate interesting information they come across in their research. Useful websites include:

(RECOMMENDED for at least one student, as it will be relevant in later section of activity) page on Climate and Mummies

BBC Culture’s article Where Does the Legend of the Mummy Come From?

BBC’s news article Tutankhamun’s Inspiring 21st Century Afterlife

ABC Science’s article Curse of Tutankhamun Finally Laid to Rest

National Geographic Kids’ page How to Make a Mummy

Britannica Kids’ page on Pyramids

National Geographic’s YouTube Video The Excavation of Tutankhamun’s Mummy (shows the solid gold sarcophagus and reveals the young age of the Pharoah at the end)

The Smithsonian’s page on Egyptian Mummies

The Australian Museum’s article How Were Ancient Egyptians Mummified?


Once pairs have written their paragraph, they add it to the KWLH chart under the L column. As a class, go through the discoveries, then fill out the H column, discussing how they can learn more.

Extension: Students fill out a concept map on mummies and curses.

Return to the poem The Artefact. Encourage students to use their new knowledge to re-examine the poem and its meaning. View the English Textual Concepts video Theme. Ask students to think about the theme of the poem and how it connects to Egyptian mummies. Encourage them to look at the events of the poem and what the characters might have learnt from their actions.


Provide students with the template below and have them fill in the blanks.


I think the theme of the poem is ______________________________ because I know ________________


Sample answers:

I think the theme of the poem is, sometimes it’s better to leave things where they belong because I know that things can be damaged by digging them up carelessly.


I think the theme of the poem is hunting for someone else’s treasure can be dangerous because I know there were dangers uncovering Pharoah Tutankhamun’s tomb.