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Burial Mound Mania

Adam Blackrock
Adam Blackrock

Adam Blackrock first came to Japan in 1996 for the comics and giant robots, but stayed for the kofun (ancient burial mounds). The longer he stays, the more he realises how much he has yet to learn about the country, its culture, and its history. On his days off, he can often be found exploring a kofun or other archaeological site.

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Makimuku Ishizuka Tumulus / 纒向(まきむく)石塚古墳

2012.09.14 | カテゴリー : 未分類 | 投稿者名 :

Location: Nara-ken, Sakurai-shi, Ota Aza Ishizuka; approximately 10 minutes’ walk west
from Makimuku Station on the JR Sakurai Line

 

One of several tombs that can be found around Makimuku Elementary School, the Makimuku Ishizuka Kofun is thought to have been built in the early- to mid-3rd century, predating the Kofun period (late 3rd century ~ late 7th century), and as such is a candidate for the title of oldest known burial mound in Japan.

 

The Ishizuka Tumulus is an example of what archaeologists have labeled the Makimuku-type keyhole tumulus (Makimuku-gata zenpo-koen-fun), a major characteristic of which is their distinctive proportions. The round section takes up around two thirds of the mound’s length, dwarfing the square section. Around 40 similar tombs have been found throughout the country, as far south as Kagoshima Prefecture, and as far north as Fukushima Prefecture, and are thought to have been a late Yayoi period predecessor to the larger keyhole-shaped tombs like the Hashihaka Tumulus.

 

 

The total length of the Ishizuka Tumulus is around 96 metres. The round section is irregular, measuring about 59 metres from east to west, and 45 metres from north to south. The square section is about 32 metres long, 13 metres wide at the point where it joins the round section, and 34 metres wide at the bottom. Excavations have revealed that the tumulus was once surrounded by a 20-metre wide moat, and a number of wooden artifacts such as farming and building implements, as well as ceremonial artifacts, have been recovered from the moat and the mound itself. The haniwa clay figures and river stones common in later tombs are absent, another indicator that the Ishizuka Tumulus predates the Hashihaka Tumulus.

 

While the outline of the tumulus can be clearly made out, visitors might be surprised at how low the mound is; the top section, including the burial chamber, was removed so that the tumulus could play its part in the Pacific War as an anti-aircraft battery. In more recent times it has been designated a National Historical Site, which hopefully means that what’s left of the mound will be preserved.


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