In the news: Hashihaka tomb may be Queen Himiko’s

New clues found to history of ancient tomb

NARA–Archaeologists have discovered new evidence regarding the physical layout of a late 3rd century tomb mound in Sakurai, Nara Prefecture, that may cast new light on its long history, which includes possible connections to a mysterious ancient kingdom.

Recent excavation work indicates that the moat of the Hashihaka tomb mound, which some archaeologists believe is associated with the legendary Yamataikoku kingdom, was more than twice as far from the mound than previously thought, according to the local municipal board of education.

The new finding about the site’s original topography is expected to greatly benefit understanding of its overall history, and possibly that of similar sites.

The 280-meter-long, keyhole-shaped mound is the oldest of its kind in Japan, and is believed by some to be the burial site of Himiko, queen of Yamataikoku.

The ancient Yamataikoku kingdom is described in Chinese manuscripts, but its location remains unknown.

A ditch discovered in the excavation work is believed to be part of the mound’s outer moat.

According to the board, the ditch is located about 60 meters from the mound and runs parallel to its western side. The ditch is reportedly eight meters long and up to 1.3 meters deep.

If the researchers’ theory that the ditch is part of the outer moat is correct, it would mean the moat surrounded the mound at distances of 60 to 70 meters, more than twice as far as previously thought.

Archaeologists previously believed the moat came only as close as 30 meters to the western side of the keyhole-shaped mound.

The new finding does not change the belief that the mound had two moats, or on the assumed location of the inner moat.

Fragments of earthenware dating back to the late 3rd century were also unearthed in the recent excavation work.

Kaoru Terasawa, manager of the general affairs and planning department at the Archaeological Institute of Kashihara, Nara Prefecture, said: “The Hashihaka tomb mound is the oldest large keyhole-shaped tomb mound in Japan. Understanding the entire picture of its history will help us examine its relationships with other ancient tomb mounds across the nation.”

The tomb mound is located in the remains of Makimuku, a city thought to have existed early in the Yamato dynasty.

It is said the dynasty built the Hashihaka tomb mound after solidifying its power base in the region, using as a model a similar but smaller tomb mound built in the early- to mid-3rd century.

(Sep. 4, 2008)

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