Coffins and Tombs


Ancient Egyptians were buried in stone containers called sarcophaguses.These sarcophaguses housed coffins which contained the corpse. The word 'sarcophagus' was derived from the Greek 'sarx' meaning flesh and 'phagien' meaning to eat, so the word sarcophagus means flesh-eater. This word meaning originates from when sarcophaguses were made of limestone. The limestone would consume the bodies placed in the coffins so the Greeks called it sarcophagus lithos or 'flesh-eating stone'. After a while the name applied to stone coffins in general. The ancient Egyptian sarcophagus was the final, outer layer of protection for a royal mummy, with several layers of coffins within (so the mummy would lie in its wrappings, encased by several coffins and finally surrounded by the sarcophagus). Sarcophaguses were enscribed with religious beliefs. On many sarcophaguses text from The Book of the Dead would be carved. They were also decorated with various symbols, paintings and hieroglyphics, and encrusted with precious jewels or covered with a precious metal such as gold or obsidian.

Ancient Egyptians were sealed in a tomb, along with their many coffins and their sarcophagus. Tombs used to be just simple holes in the ground but before long they evolved to the tomb we know today. There were many different types of tombs in ancient Egypt. These included the Mastaba tombs (oblong heaps of stone covering the tomb) and step tombs (various rectangular stones of different sizes piled on top of each other; similar to Mayan tombs). Not only were the deceased buried but a whole range of objects were buried with them. A mummy's canopic jars (the jars that held the internal organs of the deceased) were sealed in the tomb, along with furniture, food (the Egyptians believed that you could eat in the afterlife), various trinkets and charms and personal belongings from when the deceased lived. Ancient Egyptians believed that, once in the afterlife, you could use all of the things you were buried with. Some pharaohs have even been buried with their pets (most often cats) so that they could spend time together in the afterlife.
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Sarcophagus - Courtesy of Creative Commons


Modern Day Comparison


These days, after the body has gone through preservation processes, it will be placed in a coffin and buried in the ground of a cemetery more often than not. While some people choose to be cremated (burnt to ash; the family of the deceased does what it wants with the ashes) or buried at sea, most people are buried the traditional way in a cemetery. Firstly, the body will be placed in a coffin. Most coffins are rounded on top; this is to prevent the weight of the dirt from breaking the lid. After that the body will be buried in a cemetery and the dirt over the coffin will most likely be marked by a headstone.

There are many differences between the ancient Egyptian way of burying somebody and the modern-day process. Today, people are rarely buried with other objects and their coffins are rarely decorated with text or pictures (rather, coffins are usually kept plain). In ancient Egypt, people were often buried in many coffins but today people are buried in only one. Also, ancient Egyptians were buried in tombs while today our coffins are buried in the ground.
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Tomb - Courtesy of Creative Commons


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