Funerary Art

Funerary rites, encompassing any form of religious or ritual activity pertaining to the death of an individual, are a commonality of essentially all known cultures, both historical and extant. In the case of ancient cultures, material art and artefacts often formed an essential part of this, and due to placement in tombs or graves, such items are frequently extraordinarily well-preserved. In many cases, the items tend to reflect either the funeral rites and mourning practices of the community; for example, a prominent motif in Greek funerary art is the image of a prothesis featuring women grieving over a body laid out in preparation for burial. In other cases, funerary art and grave goods show a connection to cultural beliefs surrounding the afterlife. A famous example is the Greek tradition of placing a coin in the mouth of the deceased to pay the mythical ferryman, Charon, for safe passage across the Styx into the Underworld. Meanwhile, ancient Egyptian and Chinese burial sites have revealed the practice of placing carved or sculpted figurines alongside the deceased who were believed to offer aid, servitude, protection, or even entertainment in the afterlife.


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