An Egyptian Sarcophagus is a carved, usually a stone container that usually houses a coffin and an Egyptian mummy. The word ‘sarcophagus’ is derived from Greek words “Sarx” meaning “flesh”, and “Phagien” meaning “to eat” derived from a Greek word for “flesh-eating.
The name Egyptian Sarcophagus was eventually applied to stone coffins in general which were not sunk underground. The Egyptian interpretation of the word was the ‘possessor of life’ which related to the Egyptian beliefs of afterlife and rebirth.
A sarcophagus is a funeral receptacle for a corpse, the plural of which is a sarcophagus. The earliest stone coffins in use among the Egyptians of the 3rd Dynasty were designed to represent palaces of mud brick architecture, with an ornamental arrangement of false doors and windows.
Sarcophagi were most often designed to remain above ground, hence were often ornately carved, decorated or elaborately constructed. Some were built to be freestanding, as a part of an elaborate tomb or series of tombs, while others were intended for placement in crypts. They served as efficient external layer protectors of the royal mummy.
The most important process of the funeral ceremony in ancient Egypt was the mummification of the body, which, after prayers and consecration, was put into a sarcophagus enameled and decorated with gold and gems. Anubis, the jackal-headed god was associated with mummification.
In their preparation for rebirth after death, particularly later in the New Kingdom, the wealthy ancient Egyptians might prepare themselves by purchasing a sarcophagus (possessor of life), a coffin (the bound mummy, or “that which begets”), and an inner coffin or mummy board (the egg).
Coffins were styled according to the place where the people belonged. Cities such as Asyut, Akhmin, and Thebes developed their own very distinctive styles. They are mostly decorated on the exterior sides and have freely depicted representations of human figures.
Single coffins for ordinary people were made from cheap materials like pottery or reeds. There were also court style coffins reserved for the members of the wealthy class. Gold, Silver and Nested coffins were reserved for the rich.
The Egyptian Sarcophagus of King Tut’s was made of yellow quartzite. It contained three gold coffins nested within each other. Inside the final coffin was the mummy of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun. The tomb of Ramses II is massive covering more than 820 square meters.
Unfortunately, the tomb was subjected to destruction Tomb rubbers and only fragments of the sarcophagus of Ramses II have survived. The sarcophagus of Ramses was decorated inside and out with carved scenes and hieroglyphics from spells taken from the Book of Gates.
The Book of the Dead is the common name for ancient Egyptian funerary texts known as the “Book of the Coming forth by Day”. The “book” was nothing like a modern book – the text was initially carved on the exterior of the deceased person’s sarcophagus, but was later written on a papyrus now known as scrolls and buried inside the sarcophagus with the deceased, presumably so that it would be both portable and close at hand.