Sokendai Review of Cultural and Social Studies


The Value of Weapons Estimated
from Placement of Grave Goods:
The Possibility of Recreating Military Organization


(The Graduate University for Advanced Studies,
School of Cultural and Social Studies, Department of Japanese History)

Key words:

weapons, armor, placement of grave goods, value of arms, kofun period

The purpose of this article is to restore, conceptually, the military organization of the kofun period. Weapons and armor have been excavated from the ancient tombs called kofun. However, the military organization cannot be restored simply by studying these weapons directly. In this article, I consider first the placement of the weapons in the tombs and the condition of their preservation, and then I use these to analyze aspects of value that these weapons had in the kofun period. I consider what kind of armed organizations might actually have used the weapons and armor excavated from the tombs. In large and medium-size burial mounds, primarily in the Kinki region, I have determined that there was a progression, from the early to the late kofun period, from burials of weapons with corpses to burials in which large numbers of similar weapons were included to burials of decorative weapons. By contrast, in small- to medium-sized tombs, there are many cases in the early kofun period of a few weapons being placed close to the body of the deceased; in the middle kofun period protective gear (helmets and armor), swords for close combat, and bows and arrows for fighting at some distance are included. From the characteristics and array of weapons, I have inferred values and symbolic meanings. On the other hand, the small graves and middle-sized burial mounds contain arms that were used by, and prized by, small and great chieftains. Such sets of arms might make it possible to reconstruct an image of ancient military organization.