A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
1,600-Year-Old Ritualistic Sword and Mirror Unearthed in Japan
Tuesday, January 31, 2023
NARA, JAPAN—The Mainichi reports that a shield-shaped bronze mirror measuring about two feet tall and a 7.5-foot-long iron sword have been recovered from a late fourth-century burial in the Tomio Maruyama Kofun, which is located in Nara, on the southwestern coast of the island of Honshu. The mirror and sword are thought to have belonged to someone who was close to the powerful owner of the kofun, which is the largest circular burial mound in Japan. Kosaku Okabayashi of the Nara Prefecture’s Archaeological Institute of Kashihara said that the surface of the daryu mirror is decorated with distinctive designs that include images of magical creatures. The dako sword, a type known for wavy, snake-like shapes, is thought to be the oldest and longest of the 80 that have been found in graves in Japan. Markings from a sheath and a handle have been spotted in X-rays of the weapon. Researchers think the sword was enlarged to increase its power to protect the dead from evil spirits, and is unlikely to have been used in battle. Mirrors are also thought to have been used to protect the dead. The occupant of the burial may therefore have been involved in military and ritualistic matters, concluded archaeologist Naohiro Toyoshima of Nara University. For more on kofun, go to "Around the World: Japan."
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