Sarcophagus: Cemetery and Gravemarker Terms

Sarcophagus – A stone coffin or monumental chamber for a casket.  The word sarcophagus is derived from combining the Greek words sarco (flesh) and phagus (eater), literally “a flesh-eater,” since the earliest types of these burial vessels, according to the ancient scholars Pliny and Theophrastus, were made out of Assius stone from Assus in Asia Minor.  Because of its caustic properties, this stone reduced the body to bone in a matter of weeks.

The purest forms of the sarcophagus actually contain bodies.  The earthly remains of many a king or queen rest in an elegantly carved marble sarcophagus.  Often, the sarcophagus is part of a larger tomb known as a catafalque.  The centre piece of the catafalque the sarcophagus of the departed royal.

The body of Napoleon Bonaparte rests in 6 coffins inside each other enclosed in a sarcophagus made of red Finland porphyry.  The first coffin is tin plate, the next mahogany, then two of lead, one of ebony and lastly one of oak.  This sarcophagus rests in the Hotel des Invalides in Paris and the crypt took 20 years to be created