A lead made sarcophagus was excavated by a French Archaeologist in Rome in 1923.
This was a rarity because a few of the sarcophagus adopted by the Romans used lead. Curiously, there were only countable instances of renowned personalities buried in luxurious sarcophagus. Well, a sarcophagus is a luxurious casket or a coffin that was used for the inhumation of the dead. The Greeks used this method for centuries; however, the Egyptians were the first people known to use such inhumation procedure. The ancient Egyptians used this method to bury their ‘mummies’. The word ‘sarcophagus’ originates from two Greek words ‘sarx’ and ‘phagien’. These words mean ‘flesh eater’ when combined for a sarcophagus word. The Egyptians believe the sarcophagus was a possessor of life, and not of death (Koortbojian 57).
The sarcophagus of Ahiram is considered to be the mysterious discovery which tells much about the history of the city and the king who ruled it.
Description of the Sarcophagus
Pierre Montet, a French archaeologist, discovered this interesting but mysterious sarcophagus in 1923. Dating back to Early Stone Age, this sarcophagus revealed outstanding calibrations and low relief panels. These characteristics revealed the excellent art of the Phoenicians of that era.
The sarcophagus shows King Ahiram seated on his throne who is carved with sphinxes that are winged in high place. The priestesses are offering the King several pieces of the lotus flower. There is a lid outside the sarcophagus. This lid is engraved with two imposing masculine images.
They seem to confront each other. There are lions between the gentlemen. This sarcophagus is ideally made from sand or limestone.
It assumes the shape of a rectangle and has a relief characteristic with a base, the main coffin and a decorated lid. Curved lions decorate the sarcophagus have. The two lions sit back to back probably showing reverence and respect to the King Ahiram. Amazingly, their body parts are detached, this means the legs, paws, and lengthy tails of the lions are seen. There is a mysterious touch about these engravings that may suggest respect or admiration. From an anterior view, the heads of the lions are in the first plain and simplifying force, audacity, and strength are more emphasised. To the long side of the sarcophagus there is a clear scene of the King on the throne. He is next to winged sphinxes.
They are seen to be standing in a straight posture and their strong tails lifted. The King is seen to be calm and is holding a piece of a lotus flower that is almost withering. His gestures are suggesting that he is pointing at something and he is receiving special offerings from at least seven people who have analogous garments. The symmetrical inscriptions on top of the sarcophagus tell preferably about the splendid growth of his Kingdom. Feminine people are seen wailing at the edge, traces of scarlet colour are seen; these are features that make this sarcophagus rhetoric and mysterious.
The sarcophagus has various inscriptions. If one takes a closer look at the sarcophagus, he/she can see 38 inscriptions of the Phoenician Alphabet there. Scholars believe the Phoenicians alphabets represent the oldest dialects in the Kingdom of Byblos. The excavator and scholars found very interesting features about this sarcophagus. The inscriptions carried messages that meant to stop the excavator to continue digging. Reinhard Lehman was able to find the translation of the writings on this sarcophagus using the ancient Phoenician alphabetical dialect (Pritchard 57).
History of the Sarcophagus of Ahiram
King of Byblos became incredibly famous because of the sarcophagus described above.
This is real evidence of the culture and wisdom of the Phoenician people. The alphabet found on the lid of the sarcophagus proves the Greek writings. Benjamin Sass is a proponent of a theological theory that Israelites have a hand in creating the complex alphabet. The text inscribed on the sarcophagus is the oldest alphabet of around 11th century.
That is, it is older than Moabite King Misha dated to be characteristic with 814 B.C kind of texts. Scholars believe that Ahiram was a renowned Phoenician King. He ruled a Kingdom called Byblos.
He reigned in 999 BC. Little history is written about Ariham, although a lot is revealed in this sarcophagus that was discovered in 1923. Ahiram’s name was inscribed in the sarcophagus and kept scholars looking for answers as well as information about this Phoenician King of Byblos (Torrey 265). First, the archeologist thought it to be a simple Egyptian burial place. The sealing and the basic writing on the surface of the sarcophagus reveal a lot that makes this piece of artifact a national historical object that needs a keen eye.
Apart from the inscriptions of the lid and the rim of the artifact, the messages carried on the inscriptions are shocking, tormenting, and mysterious. This makes this piece more interesting. The details of the inscriptions describe how King Ahiram of Byblos was put in seclusion. Of course, this is a tale of the bitter story of death. Then, no one among the kings or governors in Byblos kingdom should come against King Ahiram and try to uncover the same sarcophagus. If someone does this, then there will be a lot of suffering and minimal peace in the land, because whoever will be excavating the sarcophagus will be after the Kingdom of Ahiram (Lee 82).
There are several measures the excavator should perform to exonerate guilt and fate. This sends a chill down the spine. In conclusion, the Sarcophagus of Ahiram carries a lot of mystery and the obscurity behind the method of burial. It is evident from the inscriptions in the lead sarcophagus that was excavated almost a century ago.
Koortbojian, Michael. Myth, Meaning, and Memory on Roman Sarcophagi. California, CA: University of California Press, 1995. Print.
Lee, David. Ernest Renan: In the Shadow of Faith. London, UK: Duckworth, 1996, Print.
Pritchard, James. Archaeology and the Old Testament. London: Princeton University Press, 1968.
Print. Torrey, Charles. “The Ahiram Inscription of Byblos”. Journal of the American Oriental Society.
” Journal of the American Oriental Society, 45.4 (1925): 269 279. Web 10 Jan.