Life and Death: Burial of the Dead
The only thing in life that is one-hundred percent certain is death. Humans go through life ignoring this ultimate fate until the day they are confronted. What a civilization does with their deceased tells a lot about their culture and beliefs in an afterlife. Whether a person is cremated or the body is preserved, whether they are buried in the ground or placed in a tomb, and how their final place is decorated all show their cultures values and beliefs and what kind of person they were. At the Getty Villa museum one piece called the Sarcophagus with Scenes from the life of Achilles depicts how a Roman sarcophagus can show you their beliefs and customs. The Sarcophagus with Scenes from the Life of Achilles is dated form 180-220 ce which is during the height of the Roman Empire. The use of a sarcophagus for burial reflects the influence of Christianity and other eastern religions at this time. Burying a body whole shows belief in an afterlife for the human body. Another aspect of this sarcophagus is its immense size and carving of a couple lying together for the top piece which is reminiscent of Etruscan sarcophagi. What is different though is that the faces of the couple are left un-carved which was a practice done during the Roman Empire. Much like how today we shop around for a coffin to be buried in, a Roman couple would do the same and once they have chosen their final resting place their faces would be carved on the sarcophagus. This shows that the people who were able to do this had the wealth to be able to immortalize themselves in marble. Another piece of interest on the sarcophagus is the Scenes of the life of Achilles carved all the way around the side. The fact that it is carved all the way around tells us that this sarcophagus is meant to be placed in the center of the tomb which would then be decorated with the belongings of the deceased. The scenes of Achilles are carved beautifully along the side. Achilles was a...
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