sarcophagus


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.

sarcophagus

(särkŏf`əgəs) [Gr.,=flesh-eater], name given by the Greeks to a special marble found in Asia Minor, near the territory of ancient Troy, and used in caskets. It was believed to have the property of destroying the entire body, except for the teeth, within a few weeks. The term later generally designated any elaborate burial casket not sunk underground. The oldest known examples are from Egypt; they are box-shaped with a separate lid, which sometimes has sculptured effigies of the corpses. The sarcophagus of Tutankhamen (14th cent. B.C.), which was rediscovered in 1922, is of red granite and ornamented with reliefs of spirits with outspread wings. Later Egyptian sarcophagi were sometimes shaped to the body they contained. Sarcophagi were not in common use in Greece earlier than the 6th cent. B.C. because of the previous custom of cremation. After that time they became numerous. Records reveal that the majority of sarcophagi were made of wood, but those that remain are of stone and terra-cotta, as evidenced in the early 6th-century examples (British Mus.) from Clazomenae. Many Greek and Etruscan sarcophagi are in the shape of a couch; others, such as the sarcophagus of Alexander the Great, are carved and painted in imitation of temple architecture. The marble sarcophagi (excavated in 1877) from Sidon, a chief city of ancient Phoenicia, are among the finest examples of Greek art. In Rome sarcophagi became popular before the Punic Wars. The earliest known example is that of the consul Cneius Cornelius Scipio of the 3d cent. B.C., now in the Vatican. Under the rule of the emperors Roman sarcophagi became elaborate, with mythological scenes carved on the sides and statues of the deceased on the lid. The early Christians also used sarcophagi for their distinguished dead. The carvings, usually representing Bible stories, are the chief source of early Christian sculpture. In the Middle Ages sarcophagi proper were used only in rare instances for especially elaborate entombments. Although memorials in the shape and decoration of sarcophagi were erected during the Renaissance and later, the body itself was almost always buried underground.

Bibliography

See E. Panofsky, Tomb Sculpture (1964).

Sarcophagus

An elaborate coffin for an important person, of terra-cotta, wood, stone, metal, or other material, decorated with painting and carving and large enough to contain only the body. If larger, it becomes a tomb.

Sarcophagus

 

in ancient times, a coffin or tomb; generally, any coffin whose design is based on architectural and artistic principles. The sarcophagi of ancient Egypt consisted of many parts. Originally resembling dwellings, they became mummylike in appearance after the third millennium B.C. Etruscan sarcophagi had a figure of the deceased on the lid, and Hellenic, ancient Roman, and early medieval sarcophagi were decorated with reliefs and architectural details. A type of classical sarcophagus developed during the Renaissance and the baroque period.

REFERENCES

Panofsky, E. Tomb Sculpture. New York [1964].
Danadoni Roveri, A. M. I sarkofagi egizi … Rome, 1969.

sarcophagus

sarcophagus of Roman Imperial time
An elaborate coffin for an important personage, of terra-cotta, wood, stone, metal, or other material, decorated with painting, carving, etc., and large enough to contain only the body. If larger, it becomes a tomb.
References in periodicals archive ?
FIRST, STUDENTS DREW the outside shape of King Tut's sarcophagus.
In fact, funerary inscriptions found on Ahiram's sarcophagus, dating to 1000 BC, reveal one of the earliest representations of the Phoenician alphabet.
The caption reads (translated from German): "On the floor below the sarcophagus is a modern concrete grave with a painted structure of a snake dragon.
There is evidence that people were trying to get inside the sarcophagus of this one and there is also some fire damage from when Liverpool took a hit during the bombing raids of World War II.
Cut out the crate and sarcophagus figures along the thin perimeter lines.
Egypt's state-run Al-Ahram newspaper reported Thursday that a team working on a routine excavation at a tomb in Luxor uncovered the painted, human-shaped sarcophagus.
Egypt's Antiquities Minister, Mohammed Ibrahim, said that the mummy preserved wooden sarcophagus dates back to 1600 BC and it appears to belong to a high official, as it is engraved with hieroglyphs and decorated with inscriptions of bird feathers, the Independent reported.
A file photo of a well preserved ancient Egyptian mummy lying inside a limestone sarcophagus in 2009
Josef Wegner, Egyptian Section Associate Curator of the Penn Museum, discovered a huge 60-ton royal sarcophagus chamber at South Abydos.
A handout picture released by Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities yesterday shows the quartzite sarcophagus of Sobekhotep I.
The owner, Linda Charles, is selling her macabre sarcophagus and assures would-be buyers that it will 'look beautiful in any room'.