(ORDO NEWS) — The study of the finds of the Imashirozuka burial complex in Osaka Prefecture made it possible to say that Emperor Keitai was buried in a different place than previously believed.
The Kofun period is one of the most mysterious and unexplored parts of Japanese history. In general, kofun is a type of burial, a barrow.
The name comes from Chinese burial complexes, but in Japan the meaning is narrowed and this word means a very specific type of burial: a complex barrow of a slightly elongated shape, looking like a keyhole from above.
Such burials appear on the island of Honshu around the middle of the 3rd century AD. Accordingly, this is the beginning of the Kofun period – and the beginning of the Yamato era, the future of Japanese statehood.
The complex structure of kofun burial mounds suggests that not everyone, even from the local nobility, was buried in them. Today, the point of view is accepted that such mounds were erected only for the ruler or his closest relatives. The last emperor of the Kofun period was Keitai.
He became the 26th Emperor of Japan and reigned from 507 to 531. According to the Nihon Shoki , Keitai was buried in Avino, which was the ancient name of one of the districts located on the territory of modern Osaka Prefecture. But there are two large tombs in Avino, Imashirozuka and O:datyausuyama, both of which date from the first half of the sixth century.
For this reason, in different historical periods, scholars disagreed over which of them could belong to Emperor Keitai.
During the Meiji period, the government finally recognized the O:dachyausuyama mound as an imperial burial and assigned a special status (as well as all imperial tombs). The problem is that this status excludes the possibility of free visits and scientific study of the territory of the burial complex.
But the Imashirozuka mound is available for research, and archaeologists have been working on it for decades. Irina Gnezdilova from the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences summarized the results of the excavations and concluded that the emperor could have been buried in the Imashirozuka barrow.
The corresponding work was published in the journal “Problems of Archeology, Ethnography, Anthropology of Siberia and Adjacent Territories” . Let’s look at her arguments.
First of all, Gnezdilova notes the traditionally complex arrangement of the burial. During the excavations, archaeologists discovered a whole system of mounds, a moat and a rampart, which are typical of the late Kofun period.
I must say that the Imashirozuka mound was robbed – and the burial chamber too. The researchers found in it hundreds of pieces of tuff of two types – white and pink. They suggest that these are the remains of a sarcophagus, and the stone for it was once brought from two different places.
In general, they managed to find a very rich grave goods, including weapons, armor, jewelry, as well as horse harness. For a looted burial, this is a rare case. Perhaps the robbers had little time or they limited themselves to carrying away the most valuable things. The discovered objects indicate that a man was buried in the barrow.
At one of the sites, archaeologists found a lot of figurines called “haniwa” – ceramic sculptures depicting people, animals, household utensils, household items.
The Nihon Shoki tells the story of the origin of the custom of leaving haniva in graves. Before the 11th emperor of Japan, Suining, ascended the throne, his uncle died. According to custom, a retinue was buried with him – living people.
The groans of those buried alive had such an effect on Suinin that he ordered that the custom be changed and khaniv be buried instead of people and animals.
Haniwa depicting a horse / ©wikipedia.org
According to the same Nihon Shoki, hanivas were placed only in imperial graves, and the collection found in the Imashirozuka mound is the largest one found to date.
It should be noted that the burial mound O:datyausuyama was recognized as an imperial burial in an era, to put it mildly, not the most developed archaeological thought in Japan.
And since a modern study of it is impossible, it remains to rely on indirect data – and compare them with the data obtained during the study of the Imashirozuka mound in our time.
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