News On Japan

Unearthing the Secrets of Ancient Japan

NARA, Mar 16 (News On Japan) - The Tomioka Maruyama Kofun in Nara City, which gained significant attention with the discovery of East Asia's largest serpentine sword and a unique shield-shaped bronze mirror, dubbed a "national treasure-level discovery," holds another secret.

Beneath the serpentine sword and bronze mirror, an untouched coffin was buried. In late 2023, Nara City initiated an excavation of the coffin, with numerous archaeology students participating in the dig. Who was buried in this coffin? We delved into this challenge to unravel the mysteries of Japan's ancient history.

The discovery was not an easy journey; it required meticulous work at the excavation site. The goal was to shed light on Japan's history from 1600 years ago, by studying the soil and what lies beneath. The question loomed: who was buried in this tomb?

The Tomioka Maruyama Kofun, a circular tomb about 100 meters in diameter, is considered one of the largest of its kind in Japan. It is believed to have been the burial site of a person of high status, but the tomb at its summit was destroyed, leaving the identity of the occupant unknown. However, last year's excavation revealed not only the serpentine sword and the shield-shaped bronze mirror but also a coffin untouched by time, promising to be a significant clue in solving the mystery of the tomb.

The discovery of the coffin marked the beginning of a challenging endeavor to illuminate a significant period in Japan's ancient history. The excavation, which involves facing the earth and careful digging, is expected to be a study that will leave a lasting impact on the field of archaeology.

As the excavation progressed, the team uncovered three black, circular plates resembling dishes, stacked one on top of another, at the foot of the coffin. Digging further, they found a third plate, identical to the first two, suggesting the presence of a set of three mirrors, each about 20 centimeters in diameter. Additionally, nine lacquered skewers, each 14 centimeters long, were found, indicating that no weapons were buried with the occupant, suggesting a possible ceremonial or religious significance.

According to the excavation director, the serpentine sword and the vertical bronze mirror found last year were likely belongings of a male buried at the top of the tomb, while the mirrors found in the coffin could belong to a female, possibly a sister or relative of the man. This leads to speculation that the occupant of the coffin might have been a female shaman or a priestess, similar to the role of Himeko in ancient Japan, who communicated with the gods.

The investigation into the coffin's contents is ongoing, with further analysis of the soil and scientific examination planned to determine the identity of the person buried. The examination of the wood used in the coffin may also provide a more accurate estimate of when it was constructed.

As the students continue their excavation, they are not only uncovering artifacts but also gaining valuable experience and insights into ancient Japanese culture and history.



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