Ancient Civilizations

Egyptian Sarcophagus

Project - Bibliography


A SARCHOPHAGUS is a stone coffin. Scholars believe that early limestone coffins had the properties to dissolve the body quickly, hence the translation of sarcophagus to "flesh eater." 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. Beginning in the 11th Dynasty boxlike sarcophagi of wood or limestone were in use in Egypt and on the Lebanese coast. In the 17th Dynasty coffins shaped to resemble the human form with a carved portrait head of pasted papyrus sheets and (later) wood, pottery, or stone were used.

In the case of royalty some were made of solid gold or silver. In the 18-20th Dynasties, the upper classes enclosed inner coffins of wood or metal in stone outer sarcohphagi, a practice that continued to the Ptolemaic period.
Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

This partial sarcophagus lid is a fairly typical example of New Kingdom art. It was made from a single piece of wood, covered with linen and gesso, then painted with considerable care. The picture above shows detail of decoration.



Egyptian Sarcophagus Project

    1. Have students use the template at right to create An outline for their sarcophagus. (click on the small graphic, this will open up a new window with larger version for printing).


    2. Copy the pattern on index stock.


    3. Cut out, leaving the broad outline intact.


    4. Using King Tut's coffin (below on right) as a model, students draw their own face on the top part of the sarcophagus.


    5. Next, they divide the lower half into quarters and decorate the spaces with symbols that signify their own interests. For instance they might draw musical notes in one section, sports insignia in another.



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