1. Religion & Spirituality

Funeral Rites & Burial Among the Ancient Phoenicians

Sarcophagus of King Ahiram of Byblos

By

Sarcophagus of King Ahiram of Byblos: Funeral Rites & Burial Among the Ancient Phoenicians

Sarcophagus of King Ahiram of Byblos: Funeral Rites & Burial Among the Ancient Phoenicians

Source: Library of Congress

Funeral rites were one of the major types of religious cultic activity among the Phoenicians. It appears that burial of an in-tact body was the preferred method for dealing with the dead, though some examples of cremation have also been found. The wealthiest Phoenicians and members of royal families received elaborately decorated stone sarcophagi which were placed in tombs cut directly out of rock.

The bodies were typically given objects from their lives to accompany them: coins, food, cosmetics, toiletries, figurines, and so forth. The inclusion of both ritual and practical objects is often cited as evidence of belief in some sort of afterlife, possibly one in which the deceased could make use of these objects. This may be a case where the funeral rites of Egypt influenced the religious beliefs of the Phoenicians. For a long time, Byblos was the primary port through which the Egyptians imported large Lebanese cedars for their temples.

The above photo is of the sarcophagus of Ahiram, king of Byblos around 1250 BCE. On this sarcophagus is a 22-consonant alphabetic script which is an important example of early Phoenician writing. It states, in part: 'This coffin was made by Ithobaal, the son of Ahiram, King of Byplos, as the eternal resting place for his father. If any ruler or governor or general attacks Byblos and touches this coffin, his sceptre will be broken.'

Byblos was a very important center of papyrus production and the name 'Bible' in fact comes from the city's name Byblos. Today Byblos is known as Jbeil or Jubayl.

  1. About.com
  2. Religion & Spirituality
  3. Agnosticism/Atheism

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.