A sarcophagus is a funeral receptacle for a corpse, most commonly carved or cut from stone. The word "sarcophagus" comes from the Greek sarx meaning "flesh", and phagein meaning "to eat", hence sarkophagus means "flesh-eating"; from the phrase lithos sarkophagos . Since lithos is Greek for stone, lithos sarcophagos means 'flesh eating stone'. The word came to refer to a particular kind of limestone that was thought to decompose the flesh of corpses interred within it
As a noun the Greek term was further adopted to mean "coffin" and was carried over into Latin, where it was used in the phrase lapis sarcophagus, "flesh-eating stone", referring to those same properties of limestone.
The lycian region is literally an open-air museum with all the various types of tombs seen here. Like elsewhere, the early buildings found in this region have been over-laid by those of the Hellenistic and especially the Roman periods; but the Lycian tombs, for which the country is famous, are in many cases earlier than the time of Alexander, and are moreover frequently adorned with sculpture works. Many are still in excellent preservation.
This early tombs fall into four distinct classes, generally called pillar-tombs, temple-tombs, house tombs and sarcophagus.
Pillar-tombs : The pillar-tombs we encounter in this region are usually reckoned to be the earliest. They consist of a rectangular pillar set on a base, with a grave-chamber at the top surmounted by a wide cap-stone. The well-known example is the so-called “Harpy Tomb” in Xanthos.
Temple-tombs : Temple-tombs are not specifically Lycian, and differ little from those Caunus and other parts of Anatolis. They have simply the facade of a temple. A porch leads through by a door to the grave chamber, a plain room with stone benches on which the dead were laid. The most splendid of these is located on the hillside above the ancinet city of Fethiye.
House-Tombs : House-tombs are in imitation of wooden houses, in one, two or occasionally three stories. There is sometimes, but not always, a pediment above and in a few cases this has the shape of a pointed Gothic arch. These house-type tombs, which have a magical spellbinding effect on us, appear most frequently in Lycian cities such as Pinara, Tlos, Telmessos, Myra, Limyra, Antiphellos and Theimussa. Beside these house-type tombs that were worked into the sheer rock face, there were also those that were made out of free-standing stone blocks.The finest examples representing this type are the tombs found to the west of the acropolis in Phellos, next to the theatre in Xanthos.
Sarcophagus : Sarcophagus (singular) or Sarcophagi (plural), are of course one of the most common forms of tomb all over the world, but the early Lycian type is distinctive. It is generally remarkable for its height, and is in three parts, a base, a grave-chamber, and a crested lid. The base is commonly used as a second grave-chamber (hyposorium), destined for the owner’s slaves or dependents. Sarcophagi are very frequently ornamented with reliefs, mostly on the sides and crest of the lid but also in some cases on the grave-chamber itself.
In the Roman period, the sarcophagi were decorated with Medusa heads, Eros figures or wreaths, whereas in the Lycian period the relieved were depicting hunting, feasts and war scenes. A particularly fine specimen of the relief-sarcophagus group, perhaps the finest in Lycia, which dates to 340 B.C stands besides the municipal building in modern day Fethiye.