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  • Robert S. Bianchi,
  • Dominique Collon,
  • Susan Walker,
  • Susan Pinto Madigan,
  • Michael Morris,
  • Charles Avery,
  • Sian E. Jay,
  • Henrik H. Sørensen
  •  and David M. Jones


Chest for inhumation. The term (from anc. Gr. sarkophagous: ‘flesh eating’, from a type of limestone thought to consume the bodies laid in it) is generally applied to substantial or decorated types of coffin, of which there are examples from many different contexts worldwide.

Since the burial rituals associated with a particular culture or civilization are often the focus for some of its most concentrated artistic activity, decorated sarcophagi can provide exceptional examples of sculpture and painting. Moreover, whatever the quality of this work, the scenes, figures, and motifs represented, together with accompanying inscriptions, are likely to embody important aspects of an entire cultural background (for example religious iconography, mythological narratives, ruler portraits, or other socio-historical details)....

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Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan, 9 vols (Tokyo and New York, 1983), suppl. (Tokyo and New York, 1986)