By Shunsuke Nakamura
KOGA, Fukuoka Prefecture–Even after being buried for more than 1,300 years, horse armor and military equipment found at a site close to the Funabaru burial mound could be brought to life through advanced industrial technology.
The use of X-ray CT fluoroscopy and computer technology has led to the creation of images that reproduce what the ancient military artifacts, which date to the late sixth century to seventh century, may have originally looked like.
The site stirred major interest among archaeology buffs after its discovery this spring. The equipment was part of items buried in holes dug around the burial mound. Among the more than 200 items that have been unearthed are a wide range of types of armor and armaments.
Above image: A rare helmet used to protect a horse’s head from the late sixth to early seventh century (Shunsuke Nakamura)
The artifacts include such rare finds as a helmet to protect a horse’s head, other horse adornments, a number of lacquered bows and other items that likely came from abroad.
The variety and high quality of the artifacts have led some experts to suggest that the find is on the same level as those found at the Fujinoki burial mound in Nara Prefecture, which have been designated as national treasures.
A major reason for the large variety of items uncovered is the close cooperation from the very beginning of the dig between experts in conservation science and archaeology. That cooperation led to accurate measurement of the dimensions of the items found, early discovery of the detailed patterns and structure of the artifacts, as well as the discovery of the cloth attached to a horse adornment.
Normally in archaeological studies, drawings are made after artifacts are unearthed and cleaned. However, in that process, many important pieces of information also tend to become lost or damaged.
For the latest dig, the items were left in the large clumps of dirt when they were dug up. CT scanning was conducted of the items at the Kyushu Historical Museum in Ogori, Fukuoka Prefecture.
A museum official said the CT scanning allowed for the undisturbed collection of information, such as small fragments, which normally would have been lost.
Computer technology was also used to reproduce what the items originally looked like.
A gilt-bronze decorative fitting had a rare design not commonly found in Japan. A number of small columns were placed on top of a hexagonal metal sheet, with the distance between opposing points about 11 centimeters. A CT scan led researchers to determine that the item was a remnant of a decorative fitting for a horse. [it was reproduced in the TV programme, commented upon below]
Researchers at the Kyushu National Museum in Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture, cooperated in reproducing what the fitting may have originally looked like. Work is now continuing to reproduce the item by using a 3-D printer.
Officials of the Koga municipal board of education said the methods used in studying the items could serve as a model for other archaeological projects if certain conditions are met.
By SHUNSUKE NAKAMURA/ Senior Staff Writer
During the broadcasted NHK programme “CLOSEUP” (Dec 2, 2013), the feature showed the above and following images, asserted that researchers concluded unequivocally that the find of gilt bronze horse fittings were made in the Yamato kingdom(called Wa in the Chinese historical records), calling for a reversal of the popular view that Japan was a backwater colony of Korea.
With the help of 3D printer, the above excavated find was successfully reconstructed as seen below:
That hundreds of keyhole mounds are found in Japan (with a sizably large population existed on the island of Kyushu that was capable of producing horse fittings), while only a few related ones are found in South Korea, supports the view that the Yamato kingdom was no backwater province but a powerful independent kingdom in its own right.
Above: These are the few keyhole mounds actually found in South Korea.
Well-preserved lacquered bows and farm tools from at least 14 centuries ago were discovered in a site here that had already earlier uncovered a complete set of trappings and ornaments from a war horse … see additional excerpted material:
“The bows were uncovered at a site about 5 meters from the Funabaru burial mound, which dates to the late sixth century to early seventh century. The lacquered bows were between 2.2 to 2.3 meters long. At least six bows were discovered buried in a row in the northern part of the site.
Metal ornaments used on the bows were also found at equal distances to each other. Parts attached to the tips of the bows to tie the bowstring were also found. The parts were made of metal and antlers.
It is apparently the first time that so many bows have been found in a single location during excavations of sites from the “burial mounds age,” which ran from the third through seventh centuries. The set will likely exceed the bows found at the Doboyama burial mound in Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture.
Several dozen arrowhead were also found together in the southern part of the site. Among the farm tools found were a spade head and sickle made from iron.
Researchers also confirmed that there were at least four sets of horse armor at the site, which extended for about 5.3 meters in a north-south direction. A short extension was found at a right angle to the southern part of the site, forming a reverse L-shape.”