Sarcophagus Art Lesson Plan

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

How did the art used on ancient sarcophagi honor the dead? This lesson plan uses a video lesson to highlight critical facts about sarcophagus art. A hands-on activity gives students a chance to sculpt a mini sarcophagus.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define 'sarcophagus'
  • explain how the art used in sarcophagi represented the culture of the deceased
  • distinguish between Etruscan and Roman sarcophagi


60 to 90 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.


Identify key steps in a text's description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.


Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.


  • Several images or photographs of ancient sarcophagi
  • A worksheet created using the quiz from the associated video lesson
  • Modeling clay
  • Heavyweight paper plates
  • Plastic utensils


  • Begin by displaying the images of the ancient sarcophagi for the class.
    • What is featured in the images on display?
  • Play the video lesson Comparing Roman & Etruscan Sarcophagi for the class, pausing it at 0:41.
    • What do the tombs on display in the classroom have in common?
    • What can they tell us about the people they are honoring?
  • Resume the video lesson and pause it at 2:34.
    • How are the ancient sarcophagi different from traditional coffins?
    • How did the art integrated into the sarcophagi honor the dead?
  • Play the video lesson. Pause it this time at 4:05.
    • How were the Etruscan and Roman sarcophagi similar?
    • How were they different?
    • How was art used in the Roman sarcophagi?
  • Review key points about sarcophagi art with the class before continuing.
  • Pass out the worksheet to the students, one copy each.
  • Tell the class to work in pairs to complete the worksheet using what they learned about sarcophagus art in the video lesson.
  • When each pair has completed their worksheets, have them gather with another pair to compare answers.
  • Review each question and answer with the class as students follow along, checking their answers and making any necessary corrections to their papers.

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