What Is the Purpose Of a Coffin?

I live across the street from a cemetery and I’ve often wondered what the purpose of a coffin is.

For example, if a person died in 1875, his or her body, reposing inside a coffin, would be reduced to bone by now. And for the next 500 years, the body would still lie in repose as a pile of bones.

Now, if that same body had been buried without a coffin [ie. directly into the dirt], today the body would still be a pile of bones, albeit probably in a more fragmented state due to insects.

I know that coffins come in handy when cemeteries flood and the bodies pop to the surface, but apart from that, what is the purpose of a coffin?

With almost everything that has to do with death or dying, it’s really for the living. If you want some kind of ceremony, then you also want a convenient way to move the body around and to hide portions of it that may be damaged or decomposing. Something stiff and enclosed fulfills both functions well, and so there’s your coffin.

Some of the fancier coffins and crypts are designed with the goal of preventing grave robbers from taking any valuables. But even that is a benefit for the living, unless you believe in some sort of Egyptian-style afterlife.

OP, the coffin is used for ceremonial purposes. True, there is no coffin that exists that will prevent degradation of the corpse. (ON the contrary, caskets with air-tight seals actually promote the decay of the body rather than slowing or preventing it. )
There are bacteria that thrive in an oxygen-free environment. But I digress.

Going back to my reasoning of a coffin being used in a ceremonial light, imagine that you are attending a funeral of an associate but were not aware they died from a traumatic head wound that would send Sam Raimi’s special effects department into orgasmic glee. Would you prefer to see this? And wait, even BEFORE the funeral, you have to go to the wake and approach the body, sans casket, to stare down at a headless corpse.

Beginning to make a bit more sense now?

It a-helps a-clear your throat, of course.

The sealed ones help protect groundwater from contamination - by the byproducts of the action of anaerobic bacteria on the contents of sealed coffins.

I see…

My understanding of “green” burials, as they’re called, is that the body is placed in something resembling a potato sack before interment. So, no, the body is not visible to the public at a funeral. And at a funeral, it could still be in a coffin-like container before interment.

But you’ve answered my question… thanks as always!

It’s a pain in the damned ass to haul around a body in a croker sack, is why.

Dignity. Always dignity.

To prevent zombies, obviously.

Remember that coffins were a status symbol that only the wealthy could afford until comparatively recent times. For ordinary people there was a parish coffin that was used to convey the corpse to the graveside, the body was buried wrapped in a winding sheet.

[literary response] For Ishmael it was a life raft.[/literary response]

<SLAPS Colophon with a Dead Trout>

Coffins don’t prevent Zombies, they contain Zombies, keeping them from roaming free.

Back during the Great Depression most funerals were closed casket affairs. The coffin would be covered with some king of altar cloth so the mourners couldn’t tell if it was a cheap pine box.

Instead of drying out and skeletonizing the body stort of “disolves” into what’s basically slime. This can present a rather disgusting situtation in the case of bodies entombed above ground (like Florida or New Orleans) or in mausoleums. Sometimes the tomb starts leaking. This can be quite noticible. The gas build up and added heat of being above ground (& not having the pressure of a ton of earth) may also result in explosions.

True, that.

Unless someone digs them up …

Alpha’s spoiler was the mother of all spoilers.

I never thought one could learn too much…until now. And I’m a rather twisted f—.

Maybe someone can help me with this…

This thread has reminded me of something I read or heard recently, that the big cement “vaults” I think they’re called… Big blocks of cement they put on top of the coffin before shoveling the dirt back in, cause some kind of detriment to… something. They harm something. But I can’t remember what that is. Now that I’ve typed this all out, I worry that I’m just thinking of the fact that if you were buried while alive, that thing would make it pretty tricky to escape.

At any rate, I’d prefer to be cremated, as I think death rituals are silly*, but if I HAD to be buried I guess I’d rather be in one of those pinewood boxes they ship soldiers in. Nice, simple, elegant, economical. If you have to stick my dormant flesh in the ground, do it in a way that’ll let me decompose and vanish quicker.

*I should also specify in my will or something that I don’t want anybody to save my ashes, as then they’ll just perform their stupid death rituals with a jar of carbon. If I’m dead, I’m dead. You could hook my corpse up to marionette wires, I’d still be dead. Clean up my mess and move on.

I agree, weirdaaron.

The whole concept of fixing up someone’s body for viewing is frankly morbid. And then you put them in a nice box and bury them in the ground and that’s supposed to be comforting?

Please cremate me and save the heavy lifting for something important.

Um… death rituals are generally for the benefit of the survivors, not the deceased.

Yeah, and I hope that from my death can come a small bit of good, in the form of people realizing that their rituals are meaningless and facilitated by companies that profit from grief.