Sarcophagus

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Sarcophagus

Summary

In the context of the Stargate Program, the Sarcophagus is a device used by the Goa'uld to heal illness and injury in living beings, and to restore life to those recently deceased. The Goa'uld also use it to greatly prolong the lives of their hosts. If a Goa'uld stops using the device after many years of use, its host body will age extremely rapidly and die in a matter of days or weeks.

The technology for the sarcophagus was derived from an Ancient healing machine called the Telchak Device. The Goa'uld named Telchak used the ideas behind the device to create the first sarcophagus.

A sarcophagus is a large, gold-colored box. There are two circular sections at either end. The head end has doors that slide apart around a pivot point under the circular section, forming a "V" shape. The outside surfaces of the device are usually decorated with hieroglyphics. The inside is lighted once activated.

To operate a sarcophagus, a person need only lie down inside the coffin-like enclosure. If no one is there to operate the device, its doors slide closed automatically, then the healing commences. Normally, the doors open again once the healing cycle is complete. The time required for a healing cycle appears to depend on the situation, but even severe or fatal injuries are healed in minutes rather than hours.

The sarcophagus can also be used as a sort of stasis chamber. If the doors are prevented from opening, the being inside will remain alive, without aging, for an indefinite period.

The sarcophagus has side effects that render it unfit for common use by humans: repeated use causes addiction, compromised thought processes, and, ultimately, insanity. The Tok'ra do not use it for those very reasons. In spite of those drawbacks, a sarcophagus would be of great use to the SGC in healing the many injuries that occur during missions. However, the SGC has never been successful in finding and keeping one at an SGC facility. Sarcophagi appear especially easy to destroy with Goa'uld weapons such as staffs or ribbon devices.

The Goa'uld hand-operated healing device is similar but less capable than the sarcophagus. Also it requires a trained person with naquadah in his or her blood to properly operate it.

While a sarcophagus is designed to boost health and longevity, heal or revive someone terminally injured, the device cannot animate non-living cellular matter.

The sarcophagus was first introduced in Stargate: The Movie.

Historical Origin

In Earth history, sarcophagi are stone containers for coffins or bodies. In ancient Egypt, a sarcophagus was the outermost container of the nested layers of coffins that held a royal mummy. There was no connotation of a sarcophagus bringing a person back to life, but the covering and mummification were necessary to keep the body intact for its journey to the afterlife.

Stargate References

The first Tau'ri encounter with an operating sarcophagus occurred on Abydos. One of Ra's Jaffa killed Daniel Jackson with a staff weapon blast, and then Ra resuscitated him in the sarcophagus. Daniel awoke with a gasp, whole and healed, as the doors slid open. Not long after, Daniel placed Sha're's body inside and brought her back to life as well. She spent only about two minutes in the device, according to the countdown timer on the nuclear bomb that O'Neill had activated. (Stargate: The Movie)

Some months after Daniel returned to Earth and SG-1 became a team, archaeologists in Mexico discovered a closed sarcophagus, which of course was very out of place so far from Egypt. They accidentally opened the device and released Hathor, whose host appeared to be a young woman. As Daniel later determined, Ra had locked Hathor in the sarcophagus two millennia before. Hathor's experience illustrated that a being could be locked inside the device against their will, and that his or her life would be maintained indefinitely without significant aging.

After Hathor escaped her sarcophagus, archeologists had it sent the the SGC. This was fortuitous for O'Neill after Hathor used a special device to prepare a symbiote pouch in his abdomen as well as destroy his immune system. Teal'c, Fraiser and Carter put O'Neill into the sarcophagus, and it very quickly healed him fully. The sarcophagus must have recognized the pouch as an injury, perhaps because there was not yet a symbiote inside. Unfortunately, in the ensuing battle, Hathor destroyed the sarcophagus by firing her ribbon device at it. (1.14 "Hathor")

Klorel and his host Skaara were revived in a sarcophagus on his mothership, after O'Neill had shot them to death to save Daniel from Klorel's ribbon device. SG-1 were on board trying to stop it and Apophis' twin ship from reaching and attacking Earth. Bra'tac noted to Apophis that it would take a long time for the sarcophagus to heal Klorel due to the severity of his wounds. (1.22 "Within The Serpent's Grasp Part 1")

Daniel was forced to use the same sarcophagus later in that mission. Severely wounded by a staff weapon blast to the chest, Daniel convinced Jack to leave him behind, believing he would die. Left alone, he remembered Klorel would have a sarcophagus aboard and made his way to it and climbed in. It released him in less than five minutes, which was barely enough time to activate the Stargate and escape the ship before it was blown up. In this case, the sarcophagus healed Daniel's clothing as well as his body. When he returned to Earth, his jacket bore no sign of the hole left by the staff blast.

The SGC learned the danger of the sarcophagus when they traveled to P3R-636 and were quickly captured and put into forced labor in a naquadah mine. The planet was ruled by Pyrus, a man who had reached the astonishing age of 700 years while appearing to be one-tenth that old. He maintained his youth by frequent use of the sarcophagus to reverse the day-to-day effects of aging, but by the time SG-1 arrived, the sarcophagus was no longer working well for him. In addition to growing older and weaker, he had grown irrational and forgetful. His daughter Shyla was naturally young and did not yet use the device to prolong her life.

When Daniel was injured in a botched escape attempt, Shyla had him healed in the sarcophagus. Then, she convinced Daniel to use it again as a way to show his trust in her. Daniel used the sarcophagus several times and told Shyla it made him feel better than he ever had. It even cured his eyesight. What he didn't realize was that the device was compromising his brain chemistry, giving him a false sense of well-being while impacting his thought processes. He acted like someone who was on mood-altering drugs. He was delusional and forgetful, as indicated by his nearly forgetting to release the rest of SG-1 from their forced labor. Carter remembered during the stress of their labor that the Tok'ra did not use the sarcophagus because of its affects on users.

When Daniel finally returned to the SGC, he began to experience severe withdrawal symptoms. Janet Fraiser found his endorphins had been very high on his return, then had begun to fluctuate wildly. His organ function was also compromised. Daniel felt a compulsion to return to the planet to see Shyla and use the sarcophagus again. Out of his right mind, he broke out of the infirmary violently, and O'Neill had to convince him to give himself up. He recovered and persuaded Hammond and O'Neill to let SG-1 return to P3R-636, where he then convinced Shyla to destroy the sarcophagus so that she could rule fairly and with a sane mind. She destroyed it with a staff weapon blast. (2.05 "Need")

When SG-1 met the Tok'ra for the first time, Martouf confirmed that they do not use the sarcophagus, because they believe it would drain the good from their hearts. Daniel remarked that he could vouch for that belief. (2.11 "The Tok'ra Part 1")

Apophis came to the SGC seeking Cal Mah, or sanctuary, from Sokar, who had been torturing him. As a symbiote, he was near death, too injured to heal his host. Fraiser believed a sarcophagus would heal them both, but there was not one available at the SGC. Apophis and his host suffered the pain of withdrawal just as Daniel had. With the symbiote so weak and no sarcophagus to heal either of them, the host began to age very rapidly and was an old man within a few hours, emerging from Apophis' control to speak the Ancient Egyptian of his life thousands of years before. Finally both Apophis and his host died, and the SGC sent the body through to Sokar in a bargain to prevent an attack on Earth. The Tok'ra Martouf informed a somber SGC that Sokar would revive Apophis in the sarcophagus. Doing so reversed the aging of the host as well, as SG-1 discovered the next time they encountered Apophis. (2.01 "The Serpent's Lair Part 2", 3.13 "The Devil You Know Part 2")

In their next encounter, Teal'c went after Apophis in a suicide mission, dragging an unwilling O'Neill with him. Teal'c was shot in the back by one of Apophis' Jaffa, and O'Neill believed he had been killed. But Teal'c appeared again, in command of a cargo ship. Teal'c told O'Neill that Apophis had healed him in his sarcophagus. This was likely true, but Teal'c had then been brainwashed by Apophis and was acting on the System Lord's behalf. Only the rite of Mal'Sharran returned Teal'c to his former state. (5.01 "Enemies Part 2", 5.02 "Threshold")

SG-1 and a Russian team led by Colonel Zukhov investigated a ziggurat on P2X-338 to check on a Russian gate team that had disappeared. They found that the ziggurat held a sarcophagus, one that had apparently been sealed from the outside. They figured out that inside it had been a creature as well as a Goa'uld symbiote, System Lord Marduk. Daniel guessed that the creature had eventually eaten the symbiote, although the sarcophagus would have tried to keep it alive for as long as possible. In fact the symbiote had taken the creature as a host, then remained in stasis until the first Russian team opened the sarcophagus. In order to kill the creature and Marduk, SG-1 had to blow up the ziggurat with the sarcophagus inside, once again preventing Earth from securing one for its own use. (5.08 "The Tomb")

When Daniel was exposed to a lethal dose of radiation on Kelowna, one option considered by Hammond for saving him was to mount a mission to retrieve a sarcophagus from a heavily guarded installation. In the end Hammond decided it was unacceptable to risk so many men on the slim chance they would bring back a functioning sarcophagus. (5.21 "Meridian")

After System Lord Ba'al captured O'Neill, he used the sarcophagus to heal O'Neill's injuries and then repeatedly to revive him each time he tortured him to death. The cycles of torture, death, and revival left Jack weakened and despairing. Visiting as an ascended being, Daniel warned Jack that if Ba'al continued, Jack would not be the man he once was, and eventually would not even be worth reviving. It did not come to that as Daniel subtly set a rescue in motion, and O'Neill returned home. Even though O'Neill was gravely injured each time he was placed in the sarcophagus, rather than entering it in good health, he suffered withdrawal symptoms once he made it back to the SGC. It should be noted that O'Neill's clothing was not repaired after each cycle; the holes made by Ba'al's knives remained. (6.06 "Abyss")

When the SGC allied with the System Lords to destroy Anubis, they relied on Lord Yu as a critical participant. Yu used the sarcophagus often, but his host was quite aged and his own First Prime appeared to doubt his mental competence. Yu explicably abandoned the battle with Anubis at the last moment, as if he was not thinking clearly. (7.01 "Fallen Part 1")

Yu's First Prime told Teal'c that Yu was spending most of his time in the sarcophagus. He said Yu was the oldest of the System Lords and that he was so infirm that he could not take a new host. Yu had grown paranoid and senile, but in his arrogance would not bear being corrected. Teal'c and Yu's First Prime conspired to overrule Yu and commit his forces to Ba'al for the purpose of defeating Anubis. Yu's experience demonstrated the ultimate limits of the sarcophagus. (7.02 "Homecoming Part 2")

When the SGC was searching for a weapon to fight Anubis's Supersoldiers, they enlisted the help of Jacob and his Tok'ra, Selmak. Selmak noted that the cells of a Supersoldier showed remnants of an energy signature similar to the residual effects left by a sarcophagus. Selmak was aware that thousands of years before, a Goa'uld named Telchak had found an Ancient device whose purpose was to heal. It was too powerful for use on human hosts, but Telchak derived the first sarcophagus from it. The Tok'ra had searched for the Telchak device with the hope it could be used to improve the sarcophagus to the point that the Tok'ra could use it without its bad side effects. Daniel and Dr. Lee found the device, and after much travail, brought it back to the SGC. It does not appear that the Tok'ra ever had a chance to use the device to improve the sarcophagus. (7.11 "Evolution Part 1", 7.12 "Evolution Part 2")

When there began to be doubts about the trustworthiness of the Tok'ra to Earth, a question arose about whether an operative could be taken hostage and used for information by the Goa'uld. Jacob assured Hammond that Tok'ra operatives are ordered never to be be taken alive. He said they take precautions to destroy their own brains so that revival in a sarcophagus is not possible. It had never been revealed before that a person could prevent their own revival. (7.16 "Death Knell")

Gallery

Daniel waits for Sha're
Hathor's sarcophagus at SGC
O'Neill and detail of doors
Klorel emerges, angry
Daniel emerges healed
Shyla destroys sarcophagus
Jack being healed
Marduk's trapped host
Yu prepares for regeneration

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--Michelle 16:53, 4 July 2007 (PDT)