Secrets of ancient Japanese tombs revealed

(ORDO NEWS) — A research team from the Politecnico di Milano analyzed the orientation of ancient Japanese tombs known as Kofun . Such studies have never been done before due to the very large number of monuments and the fact that access to these areas is usually prohibited. For these reasons, high-resolution satellite imagery was used.

The results show that these tombs are oriented towards the arc of the rising sun, the goddess Amaterasu, whom the Japanese emperors associated with the mythical origin of their dynasty.

The Japanese islands are dotted with hundreds of ancient burial mounds, the largest of which have the typical keyhole shape and are called Kofun.

Built between the third and seventh centuries AD, the most imposing of them are attributed to the semi-legendary first emperors, while the smaller ones probably belong to court officials and members of the royal family.

Among them, the so-called Daisen Kofun is one of the largest monuments ever built on Earth: it is 486 meters long and about 36 meters high. It is traditionally attributed to Emperor Nintoku, the sixteenth emperor of Japan.

Daisen Kofun belongs to a group of tombs recently inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. There are no written sources for these tombs, and excavations are rare and limited to smaller ones, since the tombs of the first semi-legendary emperors are considered the largest and, as such, are strictly protected by law.

Security extends outside: many monuments are fenced, and it is forbidden to go beyond the perimeter. For these reasons, it is not possible to obtain accurate measurements of size, height, and orientation.

In addition, their large number can discourage any researchers. Therefore, it is quite logical to study them with the help of high-resolution satellite images, which provide simple but very powerful tools for remote sensing.

This is exactly what scientists from the Polytechnic University of Milan have done, with the aim of deepening knowledge about the relationship between these charming monuments with the landscape and, in particular, with the sky.The team measured the orientation of more than 100 of these tombs and came up with interesting findings.

The results, published in the scientific journal Remote Sensing, point to a strong connection between the entrance corridors of the tombs and an arc in the sky where the Sun and Moon are visible every day of the year and show their orientation to the sunrise/shine arc. In particular, Daisen Kofun is oriented towards sunrise on the winter solstice.

Scientists note that the orientation of the imperial tombs to the Sun is not accidental: rather, it is in full agreement with the Japanese imperial tradition. After all, the mythical origin of the dynasty of Japanese emperors considers them to be direct descendants of the sun goddess Amaterasu.

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