KFC’s Funeral Day
Storyteller: Iago (he/him/his), 14, New York
“Mr. Mucha’s lip curled as he slit open the chicken and its innards spilled from the carcass. Exclamations of “eew” and “that’s nasty” erupted around the classroom, but our teacher paid no mind. “Ancient Egyptians would save some of the mummy’s organs for the afterlife,” he continued, “but we will discard them.” My 6th grade social studies class was memorable in many ways, but if I had to guess what project will stay with me forever, I would not hesitate to pick our chicken mummification and ensuing funeral. The purpose of this unique undertaking was to understand the ancient Egyptians’ science, culture and customs from an insider’s perspective. As a 6th grader, I was astounded. Mummifying a chicken completely outshined our construction paper dioramas from elementary school.
Our class split into groups who took on the specific assignments that would help our chicken, which we called “The Notorious KFC”, reach the afterlife. Our tasks ranged from designing KFC’s sarcophagus to making the objects it would need in the great beyond. The culmination of KFC’s mummification was its funeral, when all the teams battled to deliver the most proper and mournful eulogies for KFC.
My group enthusiastically researched the ancient beliefs and funerary practices and produced what we considered a clever, yet scholarly, script. On KFC’s funeral day, when my class gathered in homeroom, our teammate who was supposed to bring the printed copies of the script was absent. At first, we panicked. What were we going to do? In flustered whispers, we agreed on our strategy. We had been diligent in our research and felt we could deliver an acceptable eulogy if we treated our presentation as an improv session.
When our turn came, Anubis, the god of death, would have been proud. One team member appealed to Isis, the god of life, to preserve KFC for all time. Another begged Re, the king of the gods, to take mercy on KFC’s soul. I prayed that when Anubis weighed KFC’s heart in the hall of Maat, he would find it as light as a feather, and spared it from the hungry jaws of Ammut, the god with a crocodile head. Whenever words failed one of us, another took the relay, pleading with the gods, exalting KFC’s many admirable qualities, or simply sobbing loudly. Mr. Mucha even gave us extra credit for our sorrowful and heartfelt performance!
This experience made me realize two things. First, it was a bad idea to wait until the last minute to print the script. Second, and most important, I realized that science was not just the subject taught in my Living Environment class. Instead, science had relevance in all areas of knowledge, even ancient history! Years later, outside of school, I extracted my own mitochondrial DNA and tracked it to my own ancient history: the haplogroup V, which originated over 14,000 years ago. I know now that whatever career path I end up pursuing, science will always be a part of my life.”