The large sword, found in a burial mound in Japan, may have been made to ward off and fight evil spirits, the researchers say.
A team of archaeologists in Japan have unearthed a bronze mirror shaped like a shield and a large sword from the Kofun period (ca. 250 to 538 AD).
The discovery, which aroused interest all over the world, took place in a burial mound near the city of Nara.
The archaeologists who carried out the excavation determined that the sword found in the burial mound called Tomio Maruyama, which is about 1600 years old, was made of iron and was about 2.7 meters (105 inches) long.
The discovery of the large sword, which was unearthed in late November 2022, was interpreted by many local archaeologists as unusual and surprising. That’s because the discovered sword is the largest ever found in Japan. In fact, the largest of the swords previously unearthed in Japan was almost half the size of the sword in question.
Researchers say that a sword of that size is too large and heavy to be used in battles. This is why they claim that the sword was probably buried to protect the deceased from evil spirits or so that the deceased could fight evil spirits after death.
Japanese archaeologists have stated that the sword is an example of a dakō. They also said that in the recent past many wave-bladed dakō swords, mostly used ceremonially, have been unearthed in ancient Japanese tombs. However, it is emphasized that the last found sword differs from the others due to its size.
In addition to the sword, archaeologists also found a bronze mirror in the burial mound. They said the mirror is about 64 cm (25 inches) long and about 31 cm (12 inches) wide. They think that the mirror is also buried to keep evil spirits away.
Annette Juliano, professor of art history at Rutgers University, has written that some magical properties were associated with mirrors in the Early Imperial Period in China.1
In addition to the sword and mirror, archaeologists have also unearthed farming tools and some utensils in the burial mound.
The first announcement regarding the discovery and archaeological finds was made on January 25, 2023.
Archaeologists estimate that Tomio Maruyama was first built in the second half of the 4th century AD.
Located west of the city of Nara, Tomio Maruyama is about 10 meters (32 ft) high and 109 meters (357 ft) in diameter. Hence it is the largest of the circular burial mounds ever discovered in Japan.
Many archaeological remains have been found in the site before. Some of them are kept in the Kyoto National Museum.2
- Press release / announcement about the discovery: city.nara.lg.jp (Japanese)
- “Possible Origins of the Chinese Mirror“, Annette JULIANO, Source, Volume: 4, Number: 2/3, Winter/Spring, 1985^
- “Yamato Tomio Maruyama kofun shutsudo-hin“, Kuni shitei bunkazai-tō, kunishitei.bunka.go.jp^