What do funerary arts reveal about cultural beliefs and values?
The way a society or community treats the bodies of its dead reveals a great deal about its hopes and fears, values and beliefs. Coffins, in particular, can tell us a lot about not only the cultures that produce them, but also the individuals who are placed in them. They might, for instance, offer clues regarding the religious beliefs, class status, or worldview of the deceased. During the Third Intermediate Period in Egypt, those who could afford to do so were mummified and placed in elaborate human-shaped coffins decorated with references to material wealth, protective symbols, and inscriptions. In modern-day Ghana, it is considered a family obligation to send the deceased off in style. Among the Ga people, this sometimes means commissioning a figurative coffin in the form of an animal, foodstuff, or prestige item.