Japanese archaeologists believe they have identified the final resting place of the legendary Queen Himiko, who ruled the Yamatai kingdom in the third century, but are unlikely to ever have conclusive proof as the palace has forbidden further excavation of the site.
By Julian Ryall in Tokyo
01 Jun 2009 Daily Telegraph
Researchers from the National Museum of Japanese History presented a paper to the 75th annual meeting of the Japanese Archaeological Association on Sunday, claiming that evidence points to a burial mound in the town of Sakurai, near the ancient capital of Nara in central Japan, as the tomb of Queen Himiko.
Archaeologists had previously claimed that the tomb, built in the traditional keyhole-shape design, was built in the fourth century and therefore too modern for Queen Himiko.
The tomb, at 280 metres long, is nearly three times the size of other burial mounds in the region.
“She is a very important part of Japanese history as she was the first queen, ruled for many years – although we do not know exactly how long – and has gone down in history as a very popular ruler,” said Professor Harunari.
Prof Harunari’s paper is likely to provoke new debate over Japanese history and the royal family, which the Imperial Household Agency still claims is descended from the mythical sun goddess Amaterasu.
One of the biggest question marks remains over whether Himiko was a queen or more of a shaman.
Excavation of the tomb could settle that debate once and for all, although the Imperial Household Agency appear to have ruled that out.
“I would love to be able to excavate the tomb, but it is impossible to get permission because the agency says that our present emperor is descended from Queen Himiko,” said Professor Harunari. “But I still believe the evidence fits and this is her tomb.”