A sarcophagus is a tomb which is generally made of stone and often decorated with a sculpted cover and other artwork. While the ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian civilisations all used sarcophagi for burial, popular culture has especially centred on Egyptian sarcophagi containing mummified bodies. Building your own sarcophagus, whether full-sized or just a model, can be a fun and educational project.
Full-Sized Foam Sarcophagus
It is possible to fashion a few large sheets of polystyrene into a reasonable full-sized replica of a sarcophagus. Cut the polystyrene into large rectangles to form the long sides and base of the sarcophagus, with smaller rectangles or squares for the ends. Attach them by drilling holes diagonally through each corner and passing a glue-covered dowel through each hole so that the dowels each hold two sides together. Paint the outsides with Egyptian patterns and the inside to look like stone.
To carve a balsa wood sarcophagus, begin by cutting a base board that narrows slightly toward the bottom and, at the top, curves in a shape that roughly suggests human shoulders and a head. Measure strips of balsa for the sides of the sarcophagus. Soak them in hot water for an hour or more to soften them, then gently press them into or around curved objects to conform them to the shape of the base. Attach the sides to the base with hot glue and decorate the sides.
Papier Mache Sarcophagus
A papier mache sarcophagus is a simpler craft for children. Use a long balloon or long, thin box about 6 to 8 inches long and 3 to 4 inches wide. Dip strips of newspaper in papier mache mixture made of one part flour mixed into two parts water. Cover the balloon or box in smooth layers of newspaper strips, allowing them to dry out after every two layers. When the sarcophagus is as thick as desired, cut it in half lengthwise with a bread knife, extract the balloon (if used) and decorate the sarcophagus and lid.
Sarcophagus Jewelry Box
Decorate a long, narrow box by pasting or drawing images of Egyptian figures and hieroglyphs onto its sides. If desired, create a sculpture for the top out of salt dough, papier mache or carved wood and attach it to the lid with hot glue. Younger children may enjoy decorating a shoebox in a similar fashion. Cover the sides with white, brown or grey paper and let them draw Egyptian designs or paste on printouts or images cut out of a magazine or book.