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Mysteries of vernacular: Sarcophagus - Jessica Oreck and Rachael Teel

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Dating back to the early Roman Empire, the word sarcophagus originally referred to the limestone a coffin was made of, rather than the coffin itself. From flesh-eating stone to a stone coffin, Jessica Oreck and Rachael Teel unbury the sarcophagus.

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  • Director Jessica Oreck
  • Producer Rachael Teel

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A sarcophagus is a box-like funeral receptacle for a corpse, most commonly carved in stone, and displayed above ground, though they may also be buried. The word sarcophagus means flesh-eating from the phrase lithos sarkophagos. Since lithos is Greek for stone, lithos sarcophagos means flesh-eating stone. The word also came to refer to a particular kind of limestone that was thought to decompose the flesh of corpses interred within it. Here's a comparison between Egyptian and Roman coffins. I have been visiting the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul almost every year for the past 15 years and have always been impressed by the quality of the collection and the impressive way the many, many objects are displayed. However, for years there was a fence in the East wing, shortly after the great sarcophagi from Sidon. From time to time I would peek across it, and always it was “work in progress”. Then, for me in December 2007, the fence had gone, and instead I walked into a magnificent display of mainly wonderful Roman sarcophagi (and first some antropomorphic sarcophagi from Sidon and other spots). I here present many pictures of them, as well as details of some Greek temples that are also shown in this area. For more, see here.
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07/26/2013 • 
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About TED-Ed Originals

TED-Ed Original lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed original? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Director Jessica Oreck
  • Producer Rachael Teel

Share

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