A tomb is a room designated from a coffin (or casket or sarcophagus). A tomb can be assigned to a specific dwarf, or to no dwarf at all. The primary function of tombs is to keep nobles happy: certain nobles demand their own tomb, and the more self-important the noble is, the higher the quality they will require. In some circumstances a noble will get an unhappy thought if an "inferior" dwarf has a higher-quality tomb, however it is unclear what quality threshold the tomb must be to trigger the thought. Nobles may also store certain favored objects in their tombs.
Dwarves that have been assigned to tombs will retain all of their possessions when they die, and other dwarves will place them in the tomb - it can be a good idea to keep a chest and cabinet in the tomb to ensure that all of the items fit; otherwise, all of the dwarf's possessions will be inherited by his/her spouse (if one exists) or simply become unowned.
Making a tomb for every dwarf in your fortress can be time consuming. More convenient than creating tombs for common dwarves is to designate coffins forurial -- a dwarf who dies will be placed in a randomly available coffin set for burial, unless he or she has a tomb assigned.
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