Could the Hashihaka burial mound in Sakurai, Nara be Queen Himiko’s?

The Hashihaka tomb in Sakurai, Nara Prefecture, which archaeologists using radiocarbon dating say was built between 240 and 260 (Yomiuri Shimbun file photo)

The Hashihaka tomb in Sakurai, Nara Prefecture, which archaeologists using radiocarbon dating say was built between 240 and 260 (Yomiuri Shimbun file photo)

Japanese archaeologists, by radiocarbon dating 10 pots unearthed from the mounds around the Hashikaka tomb, believe that the tomb was constructed around the year 250, coinciding with the time of Queen Himiko’s death and hence that the tomb is likely to have been Queen Himiko’s.

However, we are minded of the German archaeologist Barbara Seyock’s caution that “Archaeological research in the next few years and decades will show if it is possible to find other sites similar in quality and complexity which could possibly have been the localisation of Yamatai. Positive evidence for a certain site will only be possible when the tomb of Himiko or the golden seal that was granted to her by the Emperor of Wei is found. Until then, Yoshinogari has to be considered as a possible localisation of the residence of Queen Himiko.” 

Unfortunately it appears that access to conclusive evidence may not be possible since excavating the Hashihaka tomb is forbidden by the Imperial Household Agency, which has designated it an Imperial tomb.

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Scientific dating suggests ancient tomb as Queen Himiko’s   
May 28 2009
 
 
KASHIHARA, Japan, May 29 (AP) – (Kyodo)—An ancient burial mound in Sakurai, Nara Prefecture, was built, according to a scientific dating method, in the mid-third century around the time legendary Japanese female ruler Himiko died, making it more likely it is her tomb, a group of archaeologists said Friday.

Queen Himiko governed Japan’s Yamatai Kingdom from about the end of the second century and died around 248, according to descriptions on Japan in Chinese ancient history books.
But the location of the ancient kingdom has been a matter of hot dispute in Japanese archaeology, where views are divided between Kyushu in southwestern Japan and the Kinki region in western Japan.

A 280-meter-long keyhole-shaped mound, known as the Hashihaka tomb, is located in the so-called Makimuku ruins in the city of Sakurai that is believed to have been Japan’s largest village around the beginning of the third century.

Through radiocarbon dating, the group led by Hideji Harunari, a professor emeritus at the National Museum of Japanese History in Sakura, Chiba Prefecture, dated the tomb’s construction around the period between AD 240 and 260.

“As the period coincides (with the time the queen regnant is believed to have died), the chances that it is the tomb of Himiko has become extremely high,” Harunari said.

The construction probably began while Himiko was alive because it is believed to have taken more than a decade to build such a large tomb mound as the Hashihaka, he said.

Harunari’s group estimated the tomb’s construction period by applying the radiocarbon dating method on carbonized materials clinging to 10 clay pots unearthed from a moat surrounding the mound that are thought to date back to the time of the mound’s construction.

The results were then converted using a tree-ring dating technique, it said.

Some archaeologists question the accuracy and relevance of the methodology.

Shinya Fukunaga, a professor at Osaka University, said while he also believes the Hashihaka was built around the year 250 and that Himiko is probably buried there, he thinks the radiocarbon dating method is imperfect.

“The period must be determined by building up corroboration and verification efforts using other methods as well,” said Fukunaga, who has estimated the tomb’s construction date based on the studies of bronze mirrors unearthed from similarly old tombs.

Archaeologists have tried to date the tomb with clay pots and other materials related to it because excavating the Hashihaka itself is forbidden by the Imperial Household Agency, which has designated it an Imperial tomb.

They have so far estimated from patterns of clay pots the Hashihaka was built in the late third century, several decades later than the time of Himiko’s death, and hence thought the one buried may be someone else, such as Himiko’s successor Iyo, also known as Toyo.

Chuhei Takashima, president of a women’s junior college in Saga, Saga Prefecture, who believes the Yamatai Kingdom was in the Kyushu region, said even if the Hashihaka’s construction is accurately dated, that would not immediately indicate the tomb is Himiko’s.

“I would not be surprised if a group as powerful as to build a large tomb existed in the Kinki region in Himiko’s era,” Takashima said.

Harunari’s group will report its findings Sunday at a general meeting of the Japanese Archaeological Association.

One response to “Could the Hashihaka burial mound in Sakurai, Nara be Queen Himiko’s?

  1. Pingback: The Mystery of Himiko | Green Shinto

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