"those eyes the ancient Egyptians painted upon their sarcophagi "

Queen Sitdjehuti's Sarcophagus
Creative Commons AttributionQueen Sitdjehuti's Sarcophagus - Credit: Hans Ollermann
 Sarcophagi were originally used by the Ancient Greeks; the word means ‘flesh-eating’, as it was believed that the limestone coffins would aid in the decomposition of the body housed within.  They are, however, more closely associated with the burial chamber of the Ancient Egyptians; here, the aim was to preserve and protect the body of the deceased.  During the New Kingdom, the image of the dead person was painted onto the surface of the sarcophagus, and the eyes were said to allow them to see the chamber in which they had been laid to rest.  This would also let them see the offerings placed at the alter on the eastern side of the tomb.  These chambers were never intended to be seen by the public, which is one reason for the rumours of curses befalling archaeologists who have excavated the sites in recent centuries.