Coffin
Overview
 
A coffin is a funerary
Funeral
A funeral is a ceremony for celebrating, sanctifying, or remembering the life of a person who has died. Funerary customs comprise the complex of beliefs and practices used by a culture to remember the dead, from interment itself, to various monuments, prayers, and rituals undertaken in their honor...

 box
Box
Box describes a variety of containers and receptacles for permanent use as storage, or for temporary use often for transporting contents. The word derives from the Greek πύξος , "box, boxwood"....

 used in the display and containment of dead people – either for burial
Burial
Burial is the act of placing a person or object into the ground. This is accomplished by excavating a pit or trench, placing an object in it, and covering it over.-History:...

 or cremation
Cremation
Cremation is the process of reducing bodies to basic chemical compounds such as gasses and bone fragments. This is accomplished through high-temperature burning, vaporization and oxidation....

.

Contemporary North American English
North American English
North American English is the variety of the English language of North America, including that of the United States and Canada. Because of their shared histories and the similarities between the pronunciation, vocabulary and accent of American English and Canadian English, the two spoken languages...

 makes a distinction between "coffin", which is generally understood to denote a funerary box having six sides in plan view, and "casket
Casket
A casket, or jewelry box is a term for a container that is usually larger than a box, and smaller than a chest, and in the past was typically decorated...

", which generally denotes a four-sided (almost always rectangular
Rectangle
In Euclidean plane geometry, a rectangle is any quadrilateral with four right angles. The term "oblong" is occasionally used to refer to a non-square rectangle...

) box.
First attested in English 1380, the word coffin derives from the Old French
Old French
Old French was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories that span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from the 9th century to the 14th century...

 cofin, from Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 cophinus, which is the latinisation
Latinisation (literature)
Latinisation is the practice of rendering a non-Latin name in a Latin style. It is commonly met with for historical personal names, with toponyms, or for the standard binomial nomenclature of the life sciences. It goes further than Romanisation, which is the writing of a word in the Latin alphabet...

 of the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 κόφινος (kophinos), "basket".
Encyclopedia
A coffin is a funerary
Funeral
A funeral is a ceremony for celebrating, sanctifying, or remembering the life of a person who has died. Funerary customs comprise the complex of beliefs and practices used by a culture to remember the dead, from interment itself, to various monuments, prayers, and rituals undertaken in their honor...

 box
Box
Box describes a variety of containers and receptacles for permanent use as storage, or for temporary use often for transporting contents. The word derives from the Greek πύξος , "box, boxwood"....

 used in the display and containment of dead people – either for burial
Burial
Burial is the act of placing a person or object into the ground. This is accomplished by excavating a pit or trench, placing an object in it, and covering it over.-History:...

 or cremation
Cremation
Cremation is the process of reducing bodies to basic chemical compounds such as gasses and bone fragments. This is accomplished through high-temperature burning, vaporization and oxidation....

.

Contemporary North American English
North American English
North American English is the variety of the English language of North America, including that of the United States and Canada. Because of their shared histories and the similarities between the pronunciation, vocabulary and accent of American English and Canadian English, the two spoken languages...

 makes a distinction between "coffin", which is generally understood to denote a funerary box having six sides in plan view, and "casket
Casket
A casket, or jewelry box is a term for a container that is usually larger than a box, and smaller than a chest, and in the past was typically decorated...

", which generally denotes a four-sided (almost always rectangular
Rectangle
In Euclidean plane geometry, a rectangle is any quadrilateral with four right angles. The term "oblong" is occasionally used to refer to a non-square rectangle...

) box.

Etymology

First attested in English 1380, the word coffin derives from the Old French
Old French
Old French was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories that span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from the 9th century to the 14th century...

 cofin, from Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 cophinus, which is the latinisation
Latinisation (literature)
Latinisation is the practice of rendering a non-Latin name in a Latin style. It is commonly met with for historical personal names, with toponyms, or for the standard binomial nomenclature of the life sciences. It goes further than Romanisation, which is the writing of a word in the Latin alphabet...

 of the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 κόφινος (kophinos), "basket". The earliest attested form of the word is the Mycenaean Greek ko-pi-na, written in Linear B
Linear B
Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, an early form of Greek. It pre-dated the Greek alphabet by several centuries and seems to have died out with the fall of Mycenaean civilization...

 syllabic script.
Any box used to bury the dead in is a coffin. Use of the word "casket" in this sense began as a euphemism
Euphemism
A euphemism is the substitution of a mild, inoffensive, relatively uncontroversial phrase for another more frank expression that might offend or otherwise suggest something unpleasant to the audience...

 introduced by the undertaker's trade in North America; a "casket" was originally a box for jewelry. North Americans may draw a distinction between "coffins" and "caskets", using coffin to refer to a tapered hexagonal or octagonal (also considered to be anthropoidal in shape) box used for a burial and casket to refer to a rectangular
Rectangle
In Euclidean plane geometry, a rectangle is any quadrilateral with four right angles. The term "oblong" is occasionally used to refer to a non-square rectangle...

 burial box with a split lid used for viewing the deceased as seen in the picture above.
Receptacles for cremated and cremulated human ashes (sometimes called cremains in North America) are called urns.

Practices

A coffin may be buried in the ground directly, placed in a burial vault
Burial vault (enclosure)
A burial vault is a sturdy box designed to protect the coffin inside of it. The body is placed within the coffin, which is then placed inside the vault. Body, coffin, and vault are buried. A burial vault serves as an outer enclosure for buried remains; the coffin serves as an inner enclosure.Vaults...

 or cremated.
Alternatively it may be interred above ground in a mausoleum
Mausoleum
A mausoleum is an external free-standing building constructed as a monument enclosing the interment space or burial chamber of a deceased person or persons. A monument without the interment is a cenotaph. A mausoleum may be considered a type of tomb or the tomb may be considered to be within the...

, a chapel, a church, or in a loculus
Loculus (architecture)
Loculus is a Latin word literally meaning little place and was used in a number of senses. In architecture it is a recess large enough to receive a human corpse. Usually found in either a catacomb, hypogeum, mausoleum or other place of entombment. Loculus can also refer to an alternative name for...

 in catacombs
Catacombs
Catacombs, human-made subterranean passageways for religious practice. Any chamber used as a burial place can be described as a catacomb, although the word is most commonly associated with the Roman empire...

. Some countries practice one form almost exclusively, whereas in others it may depend on the individual cemetery
Cemetery
A cemetery is a place in which dead bodies and cremated remains are buried. The term "cemetery" implies that the land is specifically designated as a burying ground. Cemeteries in the Western world are where the final ceremonies of death are observed...

.

The handles and other ornaments (such as doves, stipple crosses, crucifix, symbols etc.) that go on the outside of a coffin are called fittings (sometimes called 'coffin furniture' - not to be confused with furniture that is coffin shaped) while organising the inside of the coffin with fabric of some kind is known as "trimming the coffin".

Cultures that practice burial have widely different styles of coffin. In some varieties of Orthodox Judaism
Orthodox Judaism
Orthodox Judaism , is the approach to Judaism which adheres to the traditional interpretation and application of the laws and ethics of the Torah as legislated in the Talmudic texts by the Sanhedrin and subsequently developed and applied by the later authorities known as the Gaonim, Rishonim, and...

, the coffin must be plain, made of wood and contain no metal parts or adornments. These coffins use wooden pegs instead of nails. In China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 and Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, coffins made from the scented, decay-resistant wood of cypress
Cupressaceae
The Cupressaceae or cypress family is a conifer family with worldwide distribution. The family includes 27 to 30 genera , which include the junipers and redwoods, with about 130-140 species in total. They are monoecious, subdioecious or dioecious trees and shrubs from 1-116 m tall...

, sugi, thuja
Thuja
Thuja is a genus of coniferous trees in the Cupressaceae . There are five species in the genus, two native to North America and three native to eastern Asia...

 and incense-cedar are in high demand. Certain Aboriginal Australian groups use intricately decorated tree-bark cylinders sewn with fibre and sealed with adhesive as coffins. The cylinder is packed with dried grasses.

Sometimes coffins are constructed to permanently display the corpse, as in the case of the glass-covered coffin of the Haraldskær Woman
Haraldskær Woman
The Haraldskær Woman is an Iron Age bog body found naturally preserved in a bog in Jutland, Denmark. Labourers discovered the body in 1835 while excavating peat on the Haraldskær Estate...

 on display in the Church of Saint Nicolai in Vejle
Vejle
Vejle is a town in Denmark, in the southeast of the Jutland Peninsula at the head of Vejle Fjord, where the Vejle and Grejs Rivers and their valleys converge. It is the site of the councils of Vejle Municipality and the Region of Southern Denmark...

, Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 or the glass-coffin of Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and communist politician who led the October Revolution of 1917. As leader of the Bolsheviks, he headed the Soviet state during its initial years , as it fought to establish control of Russia in the Russian Civil War and worked to create a...

 which is in the Red Square
Red Square
Red Square is a city square in Moscow, Russia. The square separates the Kremlin, the former royal citadel and currently the official residence of the President of Russia, from a historic merchant quarter known as Kitai-gorod...

 in Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

.

When a coffin is used to transport a deceased
Death
Death is the permanent termination of the biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death include old age, predation, malnutrition, disease, and accidents or trauma resulting in terminal injury....

 person, it can also be called a pall, a term that also refers to the cloth used to cover the coffin.

Design

Coffins are traditionally made with six sides, tapered around the shoulders, or rectangular with four sides. Continental Europe has favoured the rectangular coffin or casket, although variations exist in size and shape. In Medieval Japan, round coffins were used,which resembled barrels in shape and were usually made by coopers
Cooper (profession)
Traditionally, a cooper is someone who makes wooden staved vessels of a conical form, of greater length than breadth, bound together with hoops and possessing flat ends or heads...

. (In the 1961 Kurosawa film Yojimbo, the protagonist, anticipating a shortage of coffins due to an impending battle (planned by Yojimbo) persuades several coopers to start making more coffins.) In the case of a death at sea, there have been instances where trunks have been pressed into use as a coffin.

They may incorporate features that claim to protect the body or for public health. For example, some may offer a protective casket that uses a gasket
Gasket
thumb|sright|250px|Some seals and gaskets1. [[o-ring]]2. fiber [[Washer |washer]]3. paper gaskets4. [[cylinder head]] [[head gasket|gasket]]...

 to seal the casket shut after the coffin is closed for the final time. In England, it has long been law that a coffin for interment above ground should be sealed; this was traditionally implemented as a wooden outer coffin around a lead lining, around a third inner shell. There are occurrences of coffins lined with or constructed from lead to bury radioactive-contaminated dead. However, in practice, after some decades have passed, the lead may ripple and rip. In the United States, numerous states require a vault of some kind in order to bury the deceased. A burial vault serves as an outer enclosure for buried remains, the coffin serves as an inner enclosure.

Some manufacturers offer a warranty on the structural integrity of the coffin. However, no coffin, regardless of its construction material (e.g., metal rather than wood), whether or not it is sealed, and whether or not the deceased was embalmed
Embalming
Embalming, in most modern cultures, is the art and science of temporarily preserving human remains to forestall decomposition and to make them suitable for public display at a funeral. The three goals of embalming are thus sanitization, presentation and preservation of a corpse to achieve this...

 beforehand, will perfectly preserve the body. In some cases, a sealed coffin may actually speed up rather than slow down the process of decomposition. An airtight coffin, for example, fosters decomposition by anaerobic bacteria, which results in a putrefied
Putrefaction
Putrefaction is one of seven stages in the decomposition of the body of a dead animal. It can be viewed, in broad terms, as the decomposition of proteins, in a process that results in the eventual breakdown of cohesion between tissues and the liquefaction of most organs.-Description:In terms of...

 liquefaction
Liquefaction
Liquefaction may refer to:* Liquefaction, the general process of becoming liquid* Soil liquefaction, the process by which sediments become suspended* Liquefaction of gases in physics, chemistry, and thermal engineering* Liquefactive necrosis in pathology...

 of the body, and all putrefied tissue remains inside the container, only to be exposed in the event of an exhumation. A container that allows air to pass in and out, such as a simple wooden box, allows for clean skeleton
Skeleton
The skeleton is the body part that forms the supporting structure of an organism. There are two different skeletal types: the exoskeleton, which is the stable outer shell of an organism, and the endoskeleton, which forms the support structure inside the body.In a figurative sense, skeleton can...

ization. However the situation will vary according to soil or air conditions, and climate.

Coffins are made of many materials, including steel, various types of wood, and other materials such as fiberglass. There is emerging interest in eco-friendly coffins made of purely natural materials such as bamboo, willow or Banana Leaf.

Custom coffins are occasionally created and some companies also make set ranges with non-traditional designs. These include printing or painting of peaceful tropical scenes, sea-shells, sunsets, cherubs and patriotic flags. Some manufacturers have designed them to look like gym carry bags, guitar cases, cigar humidors, and even yellow dumpster bins. Other coffins are left deliberately blank so that friends and family can inscribe final wishes and thoughts upon them to the deceased.
In Taiwan
Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

, coffins made of crushed oyster
Oyster
The word oyster is used as a common name for a number of distinct groups of bivalve molluscs which live in marine or brackish habitats. The valves are highly calcified....

 shells were used in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Coffins are sometimes personalized to offer college insignia or different head panels to better reflect the deceased's life choices or aspirations: in Ghana
Ghana
Ghana , officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country located in West Africa. It is bordered by Côte d'Ivoire to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south...

, Seth Kane Kwei Carpentry Workshop
Kane Kwei Carpentry Workshop
The Kane Kwei Carpentry Workshop is a studio established in Teshie, Ghana, since the Fifties. It is known for its Design Coffins that became symbolic of African artistic creativity.- History :...

 in the 50's was at the beginning of a tradition, still alive under his grand son Eric Adjetey Anang
Eric Adjetey Anang
Eric Adjetey Anang is a Ghanaian sculptor born in Teshie, Ghana, where he lives and works.-Biography:In 2001, he introduced Ghana design coffins at Gidan Makama Museum Kano, Nigeria, under the auspices of Alliance française in Kano....

 who creates elaborate coffins built in the shapes of various mundane objects, like automobiles or aeroplanes, fish or pigs, onions or stools.

In the 1990s, the rock group Kiss
KISS (band)
Kiss is an American rock band formed in New York City in January 1973. Well-known for its members' face paint and flamboyant stage outfits, the group rose to prominence in the mid to late 1970s on the basis of their elaborate live performances, which featured fire breathing, blood spitting,...

 released a customized Kiss Kasket
KISS Kasket
The Kiss Kasket is an item of merchandise licensed by the rock band Kiss. It is an actual coffin, decorated with a Kiss logo and pictures of the band members. In introducing the Kiss Kasket, Simmons quipped, "I love livin', but this makes the alternative look pretty damn good." The Kiss Kasket...

, which featured their trademark makeup designs and KISS logo and could also be used as a cooler. Pantera
Pantera
Pantera was an American heavy metal band from Arlington, Texas. Formed by the Abbott brothers, Vinnie Paul and Dimebag Darrell in 1981, bassist Rex Brown would join in late 1981 with vocalist Terry Glaze. Looking for a new and heavier sound, Pantera had Terry replaced in 1987 with Phil Anselmo as...

 guitarist Dimebag Darrell
Dimebag Darrell
Darrell Lance Abbott , also known as Diamond Darrell and Dimebag Darrell, was an American guitarist. He was best known as a founding member of the heavy metal bands Pantera and Damageplan. Abbott also contributed to the album Rebel Meets Rebel, a collaboration between Pantera and David Allan Coe...

 was buried in one.

Cremation

With the resurgence of cremation
Cremation
Cremation is the process of reducing bodies to basic chemical compounds such as gasses and bone fragments. This is accomplished through high-temperature burning, vaporization and oxidation....

 in the Western world
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

, manufacturers have begun providing options for those who choose cremation. For a direct cremation a cardboard box is sometimes used. Those who wish to have a funeral visitation (sometimes called a viewing) or traditional funeral service will use a coffin of some sort.

Some choose to use a coffin made of wood or other materials like particle board. Others will rent a regular casket for the duration of the services. These caskets have a removable bed and liner which is replaced after each use. There are also rental caskets with an outer shell that looks like a traditional coffin and a cardboard box that fits inside the shell. At the end of the services the inner box is removed and the deceased is cremated inside this box.

Industry

Traditionally, in the Western world, a coffin was made, when required, by the village carpenter
Carpenter
A carpenter is a skilled craftsperson who works with timber to construct, install and maintain buildings, furniture, and other objects. The work, known as carpentry, may involve manual labor and work outdoors....

, and he would frequently manage the whole funeral. The design and workmanship would reflect the skills of that individual carpenter, with the materials and brasses being the materials that were available at the time. In past centuries, if a pauper's funeral was paid for by the parish
Poor Law Union
A Poor Law Union was a unit used for local government in the United Kingdom from the 19th century. The administration of the Poor Law was the responsibility of parishes, which varied wildly in their size, populations, financial resources, rateable values and requirements...

, the coffin might have been made of the cheapest, thinnest possible pine
Softwood
The term softwood is used to describe wood from trees that are known as gymnosperms.Conifers are an example. It may also be used to describe trees, which tend to be evergreen, notable exceptions being bald cypress and the larches....

. At the other extreme, a coffin bought privately by a wealthy individual might have used yew
Taxus baccata
Taxus baccata is a conifer native to western, central and southern Europe, northwest Africa, northern Iran and southwest Asia. It is the tree originally known as yew, though with other related trees becoming known, it may be now known as the English yew, or European yew.-Description:It is a small-...

 or mahogany
Mahogany
The name mahogany is used when referring to numerous varieties of dark-colored hardwood. It is a native American word originally used for the wood of the species Swietenia mahagoni, known as West Indian or Cuban mahogany....

 with a fine lining, plated fittings and brass decorations, topped with a decorated velvet drape.

In modern times coffins are almost always mass-produced. Some manufacturers do not sell directly to the public, and only work with funeral homes. In that case, the funeral director usually sells the casket to a family for a deceased person as part of the funeral services offered, and in that case the price of the casket is included in the total bill for services rendered.

Some funeral homes will have a small showroom to present families with the available caskets that could be used for a deceased family member. In many modern funeral homes the showroom will consist of sample pieces that show the end pieces of each type of coffin that can be used. They also include samples of the lining and other materials. This allows funeral homes to showcase a larger number of coffin styles without the need for a larger showroom. Other types may be available from a catalogue, including decorative paint effects or printed photographs or patterns.

Under a U.S. federal law, 16 CFR Part 453 (known as the Funeral Rule), if a family provides a casket they purchased elsewhere, the establishment is required to accept the casket and use it in the services. If the casket is delivered direct to the funeral home from the manufacturer or store, they are required to accept delivery of the casket. The funeral home may not add any extra charges or fees to the overall bill if a family decides to purchase a casket elsewhere. If the casket was bought from the funeral home, these Regulations require bills to be completely itemized.

See also

  • Burial
    Burial
    Burial is the act of placing a person or object into the ground. This is accomplished by excavating a pit or trench, placing an object in it, and covering it over.-History:...

  • Cenotaph
    Cenotaph
    A cenotaph is an "empty tomb" or a monument erected in honour of a person or group of people whose remains are elsewhere. It can also be the initial tomb for a person who has since been interred elsewhere. The word derives from the Greek κενοτάφιον = kenotaphion...

  • Ossuary
    Ossuary
    An ossuary is a chest, building, well, or site made to serve as the final resting place of human skeletal remains. They are frequently used where burial space is scarce. A body is first buried in a temporary grave, then after some years the skeletal remains are removed and placed in an ossuary...

  • Sarcophagus
    Sarcophagus
    A sarcophagus is a funeral receptacle for a corpse, most commonly carved or cut from stone. The word "sarcophagus" comes from the Greek σαρξ sarx meaning "flesh", and φαγειν phagein meaning "to eat", hence sarkophagus means "flesh-eating"; from the phrase lithos sarkophagos...

  • Tomb
    Tomb
    A tomb is a repository for the remains of the dead. It is generally any structurally enclosed interment space or burial chamber, of varying sizes...

  • Hanging coffins
    Hanging coffins
    Hanging coffins are coffins which have been placed on cliffs. They can be found in various locations, including China, Indonesia, and the Philippines. In China, they are known as Xuanguan which also means "hanging coffin".-China:...

  • Treetrunk coffin
    Treetrunk coffin
    A treetrunk coffin, hollowed out of a single massive log, is a feature of some prehistoric elite burials over a wide range especially in Northern Europe as far east as the Balts, who abandoned cremation about the 1st century CE, and in central Lithuania, buried their elite in treetrunk coffins. ...

  • Coffin plate
    Coffin plate
    Coffin plates are decorative adornments attached to a coffin that can contain various inscriptions like the name and death date of the deceased or a simple terms of endearment....

  • Bier
    Bier
    A bier is a stand on which a corpse, coffin or casket containing a corpse, is placed to lie in state or to be carried to the grave.In Christian burial, the bier is often placed in the centre of the nave with candles surrounding it, and remains in place during the funeral.The bier is a flat frame,...


External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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