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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For other uses, see Sarcophagus (disambiguation).

Stone sarcophagus of Pharaoh Merenptah.

Constantinople Christian sarcophagus with XI monogram, c. 400

A sarcophagus (plural, sarcophagi) is a box-like funeral receptacle for a corpse,
most commonly carved in stone, and usually displayed above ground, though it may
also be buried. The word sarcophagus comes from the Greek s??? sarx meaning flesh,
and fa?e?? phagein meaning to eat, hence sarcophagus means flesh-eating; from the
phrase lithos sarkophagos (????? sa???f????). Since lithos is Greek for stone,
lithos sarcophagos means, flesh-eating stone. The word also came to refer to a
particular kind of limestone that was thought to decompose the flesh of corpses
trapped within it.[1][2]

Contents [hide]
1 History
2 United States
3 Asia
4 Gallery
5 References
6 Bibliography
7 External links

Roman-era sarcophagi at Worms, Germany.

Sarcophagi were most often designed to remain above ground. In Ancient Egypt, a
sarcophagus acted like an outer shell.

The Hagia Triada sarcophagus is a stone sarcophagus elaborately painted in fresco;

one style of later Ancient Greek sarcophagus in painted pottery is seen in
Klazomenian sarcophagi, produced around the Ionian Greek city of Klazomenai, where
most examples were found, between 550 BC (Late Archaic) and 470 BC. They are made
of coarse clay in shades of brown to pink. Added to the basin-like main sarcophagus
is a broad, rectangular frame, often covered with a white slip and then painted.
The huge Lycian Tomb of Payava, now in the British Museum, is a royal tomb monument
of about 360 BC designed for an open-air placing, a grand example of a common
Lycian style.

Ancient Roman sarcophagisometimes metal or plaster as well as limestonewere

popular from about the reign of Trajan,[3] and often elaborately carved, until the
early Christian burial preference for interment underground, often in a limestone
sepulchre, led to their falling out of favor.[2] However, there are many important
Early Christian sarcophagi from the 3rd to 4th centuries.

The limestone relief on this Roman sarcophagus, c. AD 190, depicts the Triumph of
Dionysus. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland.
Most Roman examples were designed to be placed against a wall and are decorated on
three of the sides only. Sarcophagi continued to be used in Christian Europe for
important figures, especially rulers and leading church figures, and by the High
Middle Ages often had a recumbent tomb effigy lying on the lid. More plain
sarcophagi were placed in crypts, of which the most famous examples include the
Habsburg Imperial Crypt in Vienna, Austria. The term tends to be less often used to
describe Medieval, Renaissance, and later examples.

In the early modern period, lack of space tended to make sarcophagi impractical in
churches, but chest tombs or false sarcophagi, empty and usually bottomless cases
placed over an underground burial, became popular in outside locations such as
cemeteries and churchyards, especially in Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries,
where memorials were mostly not highly decorated and the extra cost of a false
sarcophagus over a headstone acted as an indication of social status.

United States[edit]

Warner Tomb in Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Sarcophagi, usually false, made a return to the cemeteries of America during the
last quarter of the 19th century, at which time, according to a New York company
which built sarcophagi, it was decidedly the most prevalent of all memorials in our
cemeteries.[4] They continued to be popular into the 1950s, at which time the
popularity of flat memorials (making for easier grounds maintenance) made them
obsolete. Nonetheless, a 1952 catalog from the memorial industry still included 8
pages of them, broken down into Georgian and Classical detail, a Gothic and
Renaissance adaptation, and a Modern variant.[5] Shown on the right are sarcophagi
from the late 19th century located in Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania. The one in the back, the Warner Monument created by Alexander Milne
Calder (1879), features the spirit or soul of the deceased being released.

In the Mekong Delta in southwestern Vietnam, it is common for families to inter
their members in sarcophagi near their homes, thus allowing ready access for visits
as a part of the indigenous tradition of ancestor worship.

In Sulawesi, Indonesia, waruga are a traditional form of sarcophagus.


Lid of a Sarcophagus. (664-332 BCE) Brooklyn Museum

Ancient Roman sarcophagus from Marcianopolis

Amazonomachy marble sarcophagus, Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki

Roman sarcophagus from Salona

Moabite sarcophagus in Jordan Archaeological Museum in Amman, Jordan

The Etruscan Sarcophagus of the Spouses, 6th century BC