In the news: Discovery of boat-shaped haniwa shows belief of souls transported to the afterlife by ship

NARA–The Nara prefectural Kashihara Archaeological Institute has announced that pieces of a vessel-shaped haniwa clay object with rare markings has been excavated at the Suyama ancient burial mound in Koryocho, Nara Prefecture.

The patterned pieces are believed to be part of a talisman and were found on the north side of the 220-meter-long, keyhole-shaped tomb mound built between the late fourth century and the early fifth century.

Three years ago, a wooden ship with similar surface patterns was excavated from the moat surrounding the tomb.

“The discovery indicates that people from that age shared a view that souls of the dead are transported to the afterlife by a ship,” an institute researcher said Thursday,

The patterns carved on the surface are known as chokko-mon, which combine straight and curved lines. It is only the second vessel-shaped clay object with these kinds of markings ever excavated in the nation.

The researchers excavated about 50 pieces of the clay object from a spot near where the mound meets the moat.

They believe that the entire clay object originally measured 1.3 to 1.4 meters long and 50 centimeters tall–the largest among vessel-shaped clay objects ever found in the country.

(Mar. 26, 2009)
Explore these links:
Suyama (
The result of the excavations at the Suyama Kofun by Yoshimitsu Inoue “Nihon Kokogaku” 18 Abstracts

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