of a Man
Japan, Ibaraki Prefecture
Tumulus period, 6th-7th century
Earthenware with traces of pigment
Clay sculptures like this one were produced during the Tumulus or Kofun
era (258-646 C.E.) in Japan. Kofun means "tumulus" or "old tomb", and
this era is named after the enormous mounded tombs that were constructed
for the ruling elite in the Kansai region during that time. The diffusion
of these tombs from this area to other parts of Japan suggests the extension
of political power. We know that during the Tumulus period, Japan, which
had been divided into a series of loosely related domains, was gradually
organized into a unified state with a center of government located in
the present-day Osaka-Nara area.
tombs were often keyhole shaped. They were built over pit-shaft graves,
in which the burial chamber was usually located near the top of the mound.
Grave goods, including iron weapons, bronze mirrors, and ornaments of
jade and jasper, have been found in the burial chambers.
sculptures like this piece, called haniwa, were distributed over
the surface of the tomb mound. By the 5th century, tombs had increased
in size and complexity. The most impressive appear to have been built
for the imperial family. The largest tomb, which is near Osaka, is 90
feet high, almost 1600 feet long, and is surrounded by three moats. It
is estimated that 20,000 haniwa were distributed over the surface of the
means "clay" and wa means "circle" and the earliest haniwa were
thought to have been simple slabs or coils of clay. Eventually they ranged
in shape from simple cylinders to detailed reproductions of architecture,
military equipment, and human figures.
to look at this work
is a human figure with open eyes and mouth, standing on a jar. He wears
a pointed hat that hangs over his ears and onto his shoulders. He wears
a tunic and trousers that are tied under the knees. His hands are small
in comparison to the rest of his body. He appears to be wearing a necklace.
There is a comma shaped object on the front of his tunic. It is unclear
what it might be---perhaps the hilt of a sword or a ritual or religious
object. Who might this man be? Perhaps he is a warrior or a religious
question of the function of such objects is still debated. It has been
suggested that they were intended to keep the earth of the artificial
mounds in place. Scholars today think that most likely they served two
functions: to separate the world of the dead from that of the living and
to protect the deceased and provide their spirits with a familiar resting
addition to serving as attendants to the deceased, these figures may have
been symbols of their high status and importance.
this object was made
Haniwa were made of earthenware. It is thought that they were made
by the same craftsmen who made everyday ceramic ware, since the materials
and techniques were the same for both.