The Egyptian Sarcophagus

An ancient Egyptian sarcophagus is what we used to put coffins inside, and there would be smaller coffins inside those coffins, and then the mummy inside the smallest coffin.

Kind of like those Russian Matryoshka dolls – just one thing inside another inside another.As you know, the ancient Egyptians had very elaborate burial rituals because they believed you needed your physical body for the afterlife.

Of course, not all ancient Egyptians could afford such expensive burial equipment... It was really a privilege of the wealthy and the royalty.The sarcophagi were usually made of stone or metal and depending on the period they had different shapes.

Some were rectangular and some were shaped like a human being. They were carved and inscribed with incantations and prayers on the inside and outside.

Egyptian Sarcophagus

They were also beautifully painted and decorated, many times with the features of a person on where the face would be. And in some cases they were made with semi-precious stones like King Tutankhamun's, with its gold coffins inside.

Some Sarcophagi were also made of gold. Talk about the riches of ancient Egypt!

King Tut's tomb is one of the most well-preserved and ornate... It's certainly one of the most mesmerizing displays at the Cairo Museum.

But they weren't made just to look good. Their main purpose was the protection of the mummy inside, and that's why they had layers of coffins inside too - maximum protection of the fragile linen-wrapped body.

The weird thing is that considering it is a vessel for protection against deterioration or destruction, the word "sarcophagus" itself is actually quite scary. It's derived from two Greek words that when put together mean "flesh eating". But in ancient Egypt they didn't use that word, they had their own.

They say that the words used for sarcophagus meant "processor of life", and "to beget" – all quite life-affirming expressions. The ancient Egyptian sarcophagus was part of the burial rituals which would assure another life. A rebirth of not only the soul, but the whole human being with his/her form, roles and status into an everlasting field of reeds.

Return from Egyptian Sarcophagus to Egyptian Mummies

Return from Egyptian Sarcophagus to the Experience Ancient Egypt Home Page