Archaeology Magazine

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Third-Century Bronze Mirrors From Japan Projected Images

Thursday, January 30, 2014

KYOTO, JAPAN—Ryu Murakami of the Kyoto National Museum thinks that two mirrors discovered in the Higashinomiya tomb in Inuyama may have been “magic mirrors,” which are thought to have originated in China. The patterns engraved on the back of the third-century bronze mirrors would have been projected onto a wall when sunlight reflected off the front. “Someone apparently noticed the phenomenon and intentionally shaped mirrors in this way. I believe they have something to do with sun worship,” he said. He recreated the two mirrors using copper, tin powder, and a 3-D printer to demonstrate how they would have worked. These are the first mirrors with “magic” properties to have been identified in Japan. “The finding could lead to reconsideration of the role of mirrors in ancient rituals. Sometimes, dozens of mirrors are found from the same burial mound. Theoretically, it’s not hard to imagine that they were lined up to project a number of images,” commented archaeologist Shoji Morishita of Otemae University.