Sarcophagus vs mausoleum

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The words sarcophagus and mausoleum are often used interchangeably, but in reality, there is a difference between the two terms. We will explain the similarities and differences between the words sarcophagus and mausoleum, explain the origins of these two terms, and show a few examples.

A sarcophagus is a tomb composed of stone or marble, it is above ground. A sarcophagus is usually inscribed or decorated. Many tombs in Ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece included a sarcophagus. Today, a sarcophagus is an above-ground tomb, usually composed of granite or marble, sometimes decorated with bronze or stained glass. A sarcophagus only contains one set of remains. The word sarcophagus comes from the Greek word sarkophagos, which is named for a certain type of limestone quarried near Assos, Greece that supposedly hastened decomposition. The plural of sarcophagus is sarcophagi.

A mausoleum is an above-ground tomb or building composed of granite or marble. A mausoleum usually has doors and a vestibule, as it houses more than one set of remains. The word mausoleum comes from Greek name Mausoleion, which is the enormous tomb built around 350 BC for Mausolos, a self-appointed king of Caria. Mausoleums may hold either coffins or urns or boxes containing ashes. Remember, a sarcophagus is either a stone coffin or a structure built to house one set of remains and is not made to be entered. A mausoleum houses multiple sets of remains and has a door where someone may enter.


The face of a god, a scurrying mouse, a lounging iguana and now a sarcophagus have all, according to some, been spotted on Mars. (The Daily Mail)

After nearly a century of research into the trove of artifacts found in Tuankhamun’s tomb, researchers have, in some of the most compelling work on the subject to date, discovered that a dagger found in the sarcophagus of the Egyptian King was made from iron that came from a meteorite. (The Times of Israel)

Mr Mahdi is accused of the destruction of nine mausoleums and a mosque (The Africa Review)

The height of the mausoleum’s walls increases gradually the closer they are to the mound’s center, which led some news outlets to compare the mausoleum to the step pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara, Egypt. (Archaeology Magazine)