Sarcophagus

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 11954

If you have ever seen coffins, you've probably noticed that they are all pretty much the same. They look like big, fancy boxes. In ancient Egypt, their coffins sometimes looked like the dead person!

categories

World

subject
History
learning style
Visual
personality style
Lion, Beaver
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5), Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio:

When someone is placed in their "final resting place," where are they put? The ancient Egyptians had some definite, and often showy, ideas about where they wanted to repose!

In the first lesson of this Egyptian Burial series, found under Related Lessons in the right-hand sidebar, you learned about the ancient Egyptian process of mummification.

Take a few minutes to review what you have learned about mummification by watching a video clip, Chrysler Museum Mummification. As you watch the clip, take note of where the deceased is placed after he or she has been wrapped in linen:

 

You should have observed that the body was placed in a wooden coffin and then inside a stone sarcophagus. Where the deceased was placed after the body had been embalmed and wrapped was an indication of that person's status and wealth during life.

Wealthy Egyptians and pharaohs would have been placed in several wooden coffins before being laid to rest in a stone sarcophagus, whereas the average person would have only received a wooden coffin. An indication of one's wealth could also be determined by the way the sarcophagus was decorated. Most pharaohs' sarcophagi that have been discovered have been covered in elaborate paintings, hieroglyphics, and gold.

The image below shows one of the best-known sarcophagi that have been discovered. Tell your teacher or parent what you observe and what type of status you think this person might have had during life:

sarcophagus

Image by RachelBostwick, via Needpix.com, is in the public domain.

The image shown is the sarcophagus belonging to the famous Egyptian pharaoh, King Tut. You can tell this sarcophagus belonged to someone significant because it is covered in gold and bright colors. You can also see that there was an elaborate coffin inside the larger sarcophagus. This would have been one of the most expensive sarcophagi during King Tut's time.


So, what is the difference between a coffin and a sarcophagus? Based on what you have read so far, tell your teacher or parent what you think.

A coffin was usually made of wood and was meant to be buried in the ground or, in the case of a wealthy person, was placed inside a sarcophagus.

A sarcophagus was typically made from stone and was not meant to buried in the ground. The wealthiest Egyptians were laid to rest inside sarcophagi, and their sarcophagi were typically placed in a pyramid or tomb rather than buried in the ground. The term "sarcophagus" comes from two Greek words that mean "flesh-eating." Why do you think the ancient Egyptians referred to the place their bodies were laid to rest in as flesh-eating? Share your thoughts with your teacher or parent.

You will read more about the sarcophagus of King Tut in the article, Sarcophagus, by Siteseen Ltd. As you read the article, discuss the following questions with your teacher or parent:

  • From what type of stone were sarcophagi typically made? Why was this a good stone to use?
  • What is meant by the Egyptian idea "possessor of life" that is associated with sarcophagi?
  • What decorations were typically included on a sarcophagus?
  • What information does the article provide about King Tut's sarcophagus and coffins?

The ancient Egyptians believed that the afterlife was when a person truly came to life. Therefore, the sarcophagus was viewed as the possessor of life because it contained a person who was about to be reborn.

When you are ready, move on to the Got It? section to review what you have learned so far about mummification.

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