Thursday, April 25, 2013

7th-Century Horse Tack Unearthed in Kyushu

 7th-Century Horse Tack Unearthed in Kyushu

A find so rare, it is already being considered a national treasure for Japan. Archaeologists found a complete set of “trappings and ornaments from a war horse” close to a burial mound in Southern Japan. They are reporting that these discoveries will help archaeologists find clues about funeral rites and shed light on leaders during what is known as the “burial mounds age”.

The site was discovered while the land was being worked for farmland. It was 5 meters away from the Funabaru burial mound, dated late sixth century to early seventh century.

Artifacts include both pot-shaped and lopp-shaped iron stirrups, remnants of a gilt-bronze saddle, a “Tsuji” cross metal fitting through which intersecting cords were looped, a ‘Hitte’ metal fitting to connect the bit with the reins, as well as ornaments known as ‘Uzu’ and ‘Gyoyo,’ and a bell.

Rusted bits of ironware were also found and are believe to a part of the headpiece and armor for the horse. The rarity of some of these items compare with that of other national treasures. An example, only four other gilt-bronze ‘Hitte’ metal fittings have ever been discovered to date. Similarly, all of them have been found near burial mounds as well, namely the Fujinoki and the Miyajidake burial mounds in Nara and Fukuoka respectively.

“Haniwa” clay figures of horses, also found in ancient burial mounds, have been of great importance in learning clues to figuring out how war horses were harnessed during the burial mounds age. This find has granted researchers a rare opportunity to recreate the army of the time period.

Haniwa figures were originally set on top of funeral mounds and originally believed they fulfilled a funeral rite, but as they became more developed, they were placed out of the grave area and were possibly thought to be used as borders to the grave site. Another theory is that the soul of the deceased resides inside the statues, and some haniwa figures are equipped with armor and swords to help drive away evil spirits and protect the buried individual.

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