Encyclopedia > Sarcophagus

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A sarcophagus is a stone container for a coffin or body. The word comes from Greek sarkophagos (σαρκοφαγος), which means, "eater of flesh." Herodotus believed, erroneously, that sarcophagi (the Latin plural) were carved from a special kind of rock that consumed the flesh of the corpse inside.

Sarcophagi were usually carved, decorated, or built ornately. Some were built to be freestanding above ground, as a part of an elaborate tomb. Others were made for burial, or were placed in crypts. A sarcophagus was usually the external layer of protection for a royal Egyptian mummy, with several layers of coffins nested within.

See also: coffin; ossuary; tomb; burial; funeral

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