13 June 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

Archeologists unearth largest rare wooden “Haniwa” Statue in Japan

The remains of a 3.5-meter-tall wooden “haniwa” statue have been discovered at one of the “kofun” ancient burial mounds that comprise the Mozu-Furuichi Kofun Group, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in western Japan, according to a local education board on Thursday.

The statue is thought to be one of the largest wooden haniwa found in Japan, with parts measuring 75 centimeters wide and around 8 cm thick.

Haniwa are large hollow funerary objects. Massive amounts of haniwa, many of which were nearly life-sized, were carefully placed on top of colossal, mounded tombs known as kofun (“old tomb” in Japanese). During the Kofun Period (c. 250 to 600 C.E.), haniwa evolved in a variety of ways, including their shape, placement on mounded tombs, and, presumably, their specific function or ritual use.

The haniwa was discovered during an excavation of a moat surrounding the 96-meter-long Minegazuka Kofun, which is thought to have been built at the end of the fifth century, according to the city of Habikino’s education board.

The statue is an Iwami-style haniwa, which “has only been found at 15 kofun tumuli in Japan so far,” according to an official of the education board.

The Minegazuka Kofun ancient burial mound in Habikino, Osaka Prefecture. Photo: HABIKINO BOARD OF EDUCATION / VIA KYODO
The Minegazuka Kofun ancient burial mound in Habikino, Osaka Prefecture. Photo: HABIKINO BOARD OF EDUCATION / VIA KYODO

“The haniwa is a very rare artifact as it is made of kōyamaki (Japanese umbrella pine), which was a type of wood favored by people in power at the time,” the official said.

According to the Habikino education board, the haniwa is the tallest ever discovered, surpassing the 2.6-meter-tall Iwami-style specimen excavated from the Ohakayama Kofun in the city of Tenri in neighboring Nara Prefecture.

Studies of kofun indicate that a powerful state had emerged by around 250 C.E. in Japan. This state is identified by various names (such as the Yamato polity) and was generally centered in what is now Nara, Kyoto, and Osaka prefectures.

Many monumental tombs (kofun) were built in the shape of a keyhole, or zenp ken fun (“front squared, rear rounded tomb”). The square section is the front, while the round section is the back and houses the deceased’s body (or bodies). Keyhole-shaped tombs were adopted as a kind of signature style of this state.

Nara prefecture is home to the majority of the earliest surviving keyhole-shaped colossal tombs from the third century. One of these is Sakurai’s famous Hashihaka kofun, which measures approximately 280 meters in length and 30 meters in height. In comparison, the Khufu pyramid in Giza measures approximately 230m in length and 146m in height.

The earliest haniwa, from c. 250 C.E. to around the 450s, were simple forms and most were cylindrical.  While the positioning of the haniwa varied from tomb to tomb, they were frequently lined up along the outermost perimeter of the tomb surface, seemingly to delineate boundaries.

Cover Photo: Remaining parts of a 3.5-meter-tall wooden haniwa statue unearthed from the Minegazuka Kofun in Habikino, Osaka Prefecture | HABIKINO BOARD OF EDUCATION / VIA KYODO

Related Articles

Archaeologists discover traces of ancient Jalula, the city that witnessed the famous battle of the same name 1386 years ago

23 November 2023

23 November 2023 1

The  Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH) has announced the discovery of the boundaries and various structures of...

Evidence of Medieval Scotland in Inverness revealed by building work

19 June 2021

19 June 2021

Archaeologists in Scotland have discovered medieval remains during excavations for construction work, and they are exposing mysteries about the industrial...

A very Rare Medieval Pocket Sundial Discovered in Germany

31 July 2023

31 July 2023

A rare Medieval sundial, which is approximately the size of a matchbox was discovered in the old town of Marburg,...

Tomb of an Urartian buried with his dog, cattle, sheep, and 4 horses unearthed

6 September 2021

6 September 2021

In ancient times, the dead were buried with their living and non-living things. The offerings placed as dead gifts varied...

200,000-year-old ‘mammoth graveyard’ found in the southwest UK

19 December 2021

19 December 2021

Researchers have unearthed a mammoth “graveyard” filled with the bony remains of five individuals, including an infant, two juveniles, and...

Archaeologists Discovered “Temple of the Emperors” in the Agora of the Ancient City of Nikopolis, Greece

30 May 2024

30 May 2024

The Greek Ministry of Culture declared that fresh discoveries had been made during archaeological excavations at the ancient Nikopolis Agora...

A hungry Badger uncovers the largest collection of such coins ever discovered in northern Spain

11 January 2022

11 January 2022

Archaeologists have uncovered a rich trove of 209 Roman-era coins in northwestern Spain, due to the apparent efforts of a...

Volunteer archaeologists discovered a 1900-year-old silver military decoration in Vindolanda

17 June 2023

17 June 2023

Volunteer archaeologists have discovered a 1900-year-old military decoration (Phalera) that was awarded to distinguished soldiers and troops in the Roman...

Newly discovered inscribed brick may reveal Elamite water supply system in Western Iran

15 January 2024

15 January 2024

Archaeologists discovered a brick inscribed with Akkadian script, marking the Elamite water supply system, alongside some intricately patterned bricks in...

Czech scientists make “Celtic beer” using analysis of pollen from burial site

22 September 2023

22 September 2023

Czech scientists, together with a small experimental brewer, have recreated the country’s first ‘Celtic Beer’ using laboratory analysis of pollen...

Crusade period grave field and a sword discovered in Finland

15 October 2023

15 October 2023

A large cemetery from the time of the Crusades was discovered near a medieval stone church in Salo Perttel, a...

10,500-year-old stone Age Hunter-Gatherer settlement found in England

20 January 2023

20 January 2023

A team of archaeologists from the University of Chester and Manchester has discovered a stone age Hunter-Gatherer settlement during excavations...

Unique finds unearthed in the ancient city of Olba in southern Türkiye

16 August 2023

16 August 2023

In the excavations carried out in the ancient city of Olba, located in the Silifke district of Mersin, in the...

Offerings to goddess Demeter uncovered in archaic temple on Crete island, Greek

17 November 2022

17 November 2022

Nestled between two mountain peaks overlooking the harbor, excavations in the ancient city of Phalasarna revealed hundreds of offerings to...

A unique tomb decorated with amber was discovered near Petrozavodsk

26 August 2021

26 August 2021

According to a press release from the Petrozavodsk State University a unique tomb was discovered on the western shore of...