Mirror and sword discovered in a 4th-century Japanese tomb

Mirror and sword discovered in a 4th-century Japanese tomb.
Photo: Kyodo News
The discovery of a iron sword and a shield-shaped bronze mirror by archaeologists in this ancient kofun burial mound is a first for Japan.

The discovery of a gigantic iron sword and a shield-shaped bronze mirror by archaeologists in this ancient kofun burial mound is a first for Japan.

The largest circular kofun in Japan, Tomiomaruyama, which dates back to the second part of the fourth century, is where the oddly shaped mirror and sword of more than 2 meters were found.

The finds were made public on January 25 by the Nara Municipal Buried Cultural Properties Study Center, which conducts kofun excavations and research, and the Nara prefectural Archaeological Institute of Kashihara, which supports the excavation.

Seigo Wada, director of the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Archaeology, said that: “I wonder about the status of the person buried with the objects, as the individual was interred with a very unusual sword and mirror. There is high expectation for the study of the contents of the coffin, too.”

According to the news of The Asahi Shimbun, in the current year, specialists discovered a burial facility containing a 5-meter-long wooden coffin in the “tsukuridashi” section of the kofun, which is a projected component in the middle of the burial mound. In the clay that covered the coffin, the specialists found a bronze mirror and an iron sword. This was the first time a bronze mirror in the form of a shield had been found in Japan.

Experts hail the mirror as “a masterpiece of bronze item from the Kofun Period,” which spanned from the third to the seventh century, and note that it is etched with intricate designs on the back. 

The mirror is around 31 cm in width and 64 cm in length. Unlike other bronze mirrors discovered at archaeological sites, this one is formed like a shield. 

The rear of the mirror’s central section is elevated so that it may be picked up. The elevated area on the back of the mirror is surrounded by two spherical designs. The designs are the exact same ones that are etched on “Daryukyo,” a sort of old mirror. A specific kind of mirror known as a “Daryukyo” was created during the Kofun Period in the Japanese archipelago. The shield-shaped mirror was given the moniker “Daryumon shield-shaped bronze mirror” by specialists as a result. 

The bronze mirror has the biggest surface area of any bronze mirror discovered at a Japanese archaeological site. The bronze mirror found in the Hirabaru ruins in Fukuoka Prefecture had the biggest mirror surface prior to this discovery, measuring 46.5 cm in diameter.

Iron sword over 2 meters long. Photo: Asahi

The sword is a style known as “dakoken,” with a blade that is slightly twisted, resembling a snake. It is approximately 2.37 meters long and 6 cm broad. The biggest sword to have been found intact at a Japanese archaeological site is this one. 

Due to its size, experts think that the sword was a ceremonial object used to ward off evil rather than a weapon.

In 2023 or later, the Nara City Board of Education intends to examine the coffin’s contents. On January 28 and 29, it will provide the public access to the excavation site where the sword and mirror were discovered. The sword and mirror won’t be displayed right now since they are being restored.

Cover Photo: Kyodo News

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