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  • Egyptian Sarcophagi

  • Comparison Between Egyptian and Roman Coffins

    Criteria Egyptian Sarcophagus Roman Sarcophagus
    ImagesEgyptian Sarcophagus Roman Sarcophagus
    Historical usage
    - The most important object of royal tombs from the Early Dynasty was the sarcophagus. It's purpose was the protection of the body, preserving it from deterioration or mutilation.
    - Prior to the second century, the Romans practiced cremation, and placed remaining ashes in ossuaries.
    - Romans eventually adopted inhumation as their primary funerary practice, creating a large demand for sarcophagi during the second and third centuries
    Public Display
    - Egyptian tombs and sarcophagi were carefully concealed from the public, and were never meant to be for public display. It was of the most important religious importance to keep away intruders from viewing the burial chambers, to allow a safe passage for the deceased to the underworld
    Roman sarcophagi were displayed in a wide variety of ways. Many were viewed in the round in open-air settings, either elevated on pedestals or placed on the roofs of built tombs.
    Shape - The earliest coffins of the Early Dynasty were plain rectangular boxes.
    - The anthropoid (human) coffin became standard during the New Kingdom. These provided an image of the deceased that could house his spirit along with the corpse
    - The most common shape for Roman sarcophagi was a low rectangular box
    - Lids usually have the form of a steeply pitched gabled roof.
    Decorations - Old Kingdom and sarcophagi were decorated with paintings of a false door through which the dead can step out to the offering site painted on their interior east walls of the tomb, and a pair of eyes painted on the outside to enable him to see the activities at the offering site
    - In the Middle Kingdom, religious Coffin Texts were copied onto the interior sides of sarcophagi
    - During the New Kingdom, anthropoid (human) coffins were decorated with bands imitating mummy wrappings, four transverse bands were painted on both sides of the lid and case of the coffin, in imitation of the mummy bandages. Additionally a middle vertical band were painted in the lid from chest to feet. The inside of the coffin often contained excerpts from the Book of the Dead
    - Common decorative themes included battle and hunting scenes, weddings and other biographical episodes from the life of the deceased
    - Coffins of the Early Dynastic period were made of wood
    - granite, one of the hardest stones available to the Egyptians, was the common material used in the manufacture of sarcophagi from the Old Kingdom onwards. The hard nature of granite only allowed for rough carvings and detailing of decorations
    - The most luxurious sarcophagi were of marble. The soft nature of he marbles used allowed artists to decorate the Roman coffins with intricate details and three dimensional carvings.
    - Less expensive coffins were made of limestone, lead, and wood