THEY may not be held in as high estimation as the pharaohs of ancient Egypt once were.
But local fish can look forward to a happy afterlife after Hilsea primary schoolchildren mummified them.
Youngsters at Northern Parade Juniors performed the operation – dating thousands of years – on dogfish and mackerels after teacher Sarah Hilditch was determined to get them hooked onto their ancient Egyptians topic for the term.
The extraordinary day’s activities kicked off with a hieroglyphic code-breaking challenge which led 75 eight and nine-year-olds along a route strewn with ‘blood-stained’ bandages.
After collecting these, they were treated to a ritual mummification of one of their teachers – behind a white screen – to give them an idea of how the operation should be done.
And after researching the procedure the children were led to their fish which they washed and cut open to remove all internal organs apart from the heart.
They then rubbed salt and oil into the fish, stuffing them with cat litter and wrapping them up in the bandages.
Stephen Rowland, nine, said: ‘I had so much fun and because my partner didn’t want to touch the fish I got to mummify it all by myself.
‘The ancient Egyptians were very caring about how they sent people off to the afterlife – I would have loved to do it when they were around.’
Caitlin Gains, eight, said: ‘At first I was really scared but when I found out my fish didn’t have any organs inside I was relieved!
‘I like the idea of preserving bodies for the afterlife.
‘I felt very sorry for the fish but at least they had a proper burial.
‘It’s important to do things with your own hands because it makes you understand the subject better.’
Billy Bramble, eight, said: ‘I had a massive dogfish which I gutted and wrapped up.
‘It was just incredible to go through what the ancient Egyptians did for human beings.
‘The whole experience brought the topic to life and the mummification of our teacher was funny, even if we only saw it from behind a screen.
‘I’m so much more enthusiastic about this period in history now.’
Sarah Hilditch, year four teacher, said pupils thoroughly enjoyed the day.
She said: ‘We always like kick-starting our topics with a bit of a wow factor, and I think this did the job!
‘There’s a real buzz around the ancient Egyptians and it has inspired so much writing and research.
‘Now the children can’t wait to see some of the ancient artefacts first hand at the British Museum, and they’ll be creating their own museum when they come back.’