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William Gowland standing in the main burial chamber of one of the Tsukahara Kofun mounds
©
Trustees of the British Museum
 
A workshop entitled Treasures from the ancient Japanese mounded tombs: current research on the Gowland Collection will be held on Saturday, 19 March 2016 from 09.30–13.00 in the Sackler Rooms, Clore Centre, the British Museum.
 
A half-day symposium where Japanese and British specialists will present the findings of their major research project into the Gowland Collection of Kofun period materials (3rd-7th centuries AD) held at the British Museum. These artefacts and archive, acquired by William Gowland during his long sojourn in Japan in the later 19th century, comprise a unique collection outside Japan, illuminating both the history of Japanese archaeology and the origins of the state in Japan, when rulers were buried in some of the largest burial monuments of the ancient world.
 
Admission is free but pre-registration is advised as seats are limited. To register please contact ayano@britishmuseum.org See also our earlier feature on William Gowland: Father of Japanese Archaeology here.
 
 kofun-tomb
 
The 5th century Daisen Kofun (burial mound), the largest of all the keyhole-shaped kofun, in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, Japan.
 
David DeMar, writing in the NewHistorian, reports on the discovery of a wooden causeway linking one of Japan’s keyhole-shaped burial mounds to its surrounding land –
 
Research into an ancient Japanese burial mound has revealed evidence of a wooden bridge being used at the time of the occupant’s burial, before being taken down.
 
Located in the city of Sakai, south of Osaka, the keyhole-shaped burial mound could have been used as the final resting place of an important individual, either from the imperial family or an emperor himself from the Kofun period (late third to seventh centuries CE). Known as the Nisanzai Kofun, the mound has been dated to the late fifth century CE and would have been surrounded by a large moat, necessitating the construction of a bridge to reach it.
 
According to an interview in the Asahi Shimbun with Taichiro Shiraishi, Osaka Prefecture’s head of the Chikatsu Asuka Museum, the likelihood seems high that, during the burial, people would have stood on both sides of the bridge as the body, encased in a temporary casket, was laid to rest. Shiraishi pointed to the evidence, consisting of five newly-discovered bore holes that would have been ideal for the piers of a bridge; these holes, which were discovered during excavation efforts in the autumn of 2015, are in addition to the 26 bore holes ringing the burial mound discovered in a 2013 dig. An additional four holes were found progressing across the moat in 2013 as well.
 
Full article here.
 
 
 
The Star Chart on the ceiling of the Takamatsuzuka burial mound in western Japan
Image credit Yuta Takahashi for the The Asahi Shimbun
 
The famous Takamatsuzuka Kofun (高松塚古墳) burial mound exhibition closes today (8 November 2015) in Asuka village, Japan. Built during the Asuka Period, between the end of the 7th century and the beginning of the 8th century, it lay unopened until 1972. Excavations of the mound then revealed an interior on whose walls stunning murals of Asuka Period ladies, astrological representations and a golden star chart were found. The gold disks, making up the chart, measure some 0.8 centimetres in diameter and are connected by red lines
 
Designated as a National Treasure this was the first time the general public were able to view the chart.
 
More here.
   
 
 
Adam’s Grave, Wiltshire England
Image credit and © Gordon Kingston
 
On a day when Historic England has announced that top of its list for sites to be protected are the barrows (burial mounds) that dot the English landscape we thought it apt to reproduce a poem and a photo by one of our old friends – Gordon Kingston.
 
Their presence
 
‘Neath Adam’s Grave I push “large chips”
down through my teeth and grasping lips…
 
Didn’t Strabo state that ancients ate
Their fathers’ bodies on a plate;
And drank the fluid that now gets hid
In a silver cup, under a silver lid?
Somehow their presence is up here still;
Watching me watching, on the hill.
 
Gordon Kingston
 
For more poems on the megalithic theme please see the Megalithic Poems blog here.
 
 
 
Detail of a huge wine cauldron (the largest object found on site so far) with handles depicting the Greek River Deity Acheloos
Image credit and © Denis Glickman/INRAP
 
Ellie Zolfagharifard, writing for the Mail Online, reports on the massive and stunning tomb of a Celtic prince which has been discovered in France –
 
The tomb of an Iron Age Celtic prince has been unearthed in a small French town. The ‘exceptional’ grave, crammed with Greek and possibly Etruscan artefacts, was discovered in a business zone on the outskirts of Lavau in France’s Champagne region. The prince is buried with his chariot at the centre of a huge mound, 130 feet (40 metres) across, which has been dated to the 5th Century BC.
 
A team from the National Archaeological Research Institute, Inrap has been excavating the site since October last year. They recently dated it to the end of the First Iron Age – a period characterised by the widespread use of the metal.
 
Full article here.
   

Artist impression of the seventh century Koyamada Burial Mound Moat
Image credit the Archaeological Institute of Kashihara

Kazuto Tsukamoto, Staff Writer for the Asahi Shimbun, reports last week that archaeologists in Japan have unearthed the remains of a possible mid-seventh century imperial burial mound (kofun 古墳). The remains of the Koyamada Mound were discovered on the site of a school in the Askua area of Nara Prefecture, central Japan. Asuka was one of the early capitals of Japan before being relocated to Nara and then Kyoto (see our earlier feature, Asuka, Japan: An introduction to its megalithic sites).

“The mound is highly likely the first burial site of Emperor Jomei (593-641), described in the ‘Nihon Shoki’ (The Chronicles of Japan) as the place where his body rested until it was later transferred to another location,” said Fuminori Sugaya, the director of the Archaeological Institute of Kashihara, Nara Prefecture. The researchers made the estimate based on the ruin’s location, size and unique construction method.

The excavation site contains what is believed to be part of a moat lined with boulders along one of its slopes, according to the researchers. The remnants of the moat measures 48 meters in length and 3.9 to 7 meters in width. While 40-centimeter quartz diorite boulders line the northern slope of the moat, the bottom is covered with stones measuring 15 cm to 30 cm. The southern slope is covered with flagstones made of two-step chlorite schist that are topped with special flagstones known as “Haibara,” a type of rhyolite stone, stacked in a staircase pattern. The total number of steps in some areas is 10.

Full Asahi Shimbun article here.

   

Created by Dimitrios Tsalkanis
©
2014
 
A digital 3d reconstruction of the newly discovered tomb in Kasta hill of ancient Amphipolis, in Macedonia, Greece. Published on 13 December 2014. Disclaimer: The reconstruction is an artistic representation, based on the details published so far by the Greek Ministry of Culture.
 
For more info:
 

Sutton Hoo and Europe, AD 300–1100. Room 41. The Sir Paul and Lady Ruddock Gallery
Image © The Trustees of the British Museum

In 1939, archaeologist Basil Brown investigated the largest of many Anglo-Saxon burial mounds on the property of Mrs Edith Pretty in Sutton Hoo. He made one of the most spectacular archaeological discoveries of all time – an undisturbed burial of an important early 7th-century East Anglian. To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the excavation, come to the British Museum for a lecture on Friday 25 July where John Preston, nephew of Mrs Pretty, will relate the story behind the excavation.

The National Trust are celebrating the anniversary with a grand 1930s garden party on Saturday 26 & Sunday 27 July at the National Trust Visitor Centre at Sutton Hoo. There’ll be music, entertainment, tours of the mounds, cream teas, vintage cars, and much more!

The remarkable treasures are on display in the Museum’s newly refurbished Room 41. You can also learn more about the Sutton Hoo ship burial with a tour on Google Cultural Institute.

Source: The British Museum.

   

The Bartlow Burial Mounds, Cambridgeshire, England in the late 18th century

Just a reminder that The Heritage Trust will be holding its Outreach Event this year at Bartlow, Cambridgeshire, England on Saturday, 21 June (the summer solstice).

Details here.

 
 
Mural of the Asuka Beauties painted on the west wall of the stone chamber in the Takamatsuzuka Burial Mound (kofun) in Asuka, Nara Prefecture, Japan
Photo taken in August 2013 after the mural had been cleaned
Image credit the Japan Agency for Cultural Affairs
 
Kazuto Tsukamoto, Staff Writer for The Asahi Shimbun, reports that –
 
Stunning murals painted 1,300 years ago in the stone chamber of the Takamatsuzuka burial mound, currently under repair, will continue to be preserved in an outside facility. The government panel that made the decision March 27 said the colorful wall paintings can stay “for the time being” outside the stone chamber even after the decade-long repair process winds up. A key reason for this is the lack of established technology to prevent mold from re-emerging and destroying what is left of the paintings.
 
The murals created a huge buzz when they were discovered in 1972 at the burial mound in Asuka, Nara Prefecture. “Given existing technologies, it would be difficult to return the mural paintings to the burial mound, although we will continue our research for doing so,” said Yorikuni Nagai, an adjunct professor of education policy with the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, who chairs the 17-member panel, which reports to the Agency for Cultural Affairs. “We will have to build a solid preservation facility if the process is going to take 20 to 30 years to complete.”
 
The Agency for Cultural Affairs initially envisaged returning the mural paintings to the Takamatsuzuka burial mound once the repair work was finished. The panel’s decision represents a departure from established policy, which is based on the notion that archaeological finds should in principle be conserved on site. “It would be appropriate to preserve, maintain and display the mural paintings at an appropriate location outside the burial mound for the time being,” said part of a draft plan the agency presented to the panel, which subsequently approved it.
 
The Takamatsuzuka paintings, designated a national treasure, include the famous “Asuka beauties,” or a group of female figures originally found on the west wall of the stone chamber. The entire stone chamber was removed in 2007 from the tumulus, which dates from the late seventh or the early eighth century and is designated a special historic site by the government. A similar decision had earlier been reached on colorful mural paintings from the Kitora burial mound,  another government-designated special historic site in Asuka. They are being preserved outside the tumulus, which also dates from the late seventh or the early eighth century.
 
While preferable to preserve artefacts, works of art etc in their original context it’s surely impossible (and probably undesirable) in this case. Since their discovery forty years ago the Takamatsuzuka murals now show signs of degradation and, given their delicate nature, perhaps should have been moved to a controlled environment from the beginning. Even the poor quality press cutting below shows loss of facial (and other detail/degradation) in the paintings since the 1970s.
 
 
Press cutting from the 17 March 1972. Compare with the more recent Agency for Cultural Affairs photograph above (top)
 
Original article here. See also our feature on Asuka here.
 
 
The Bartlow Burial Mounds, Cambridgeshire, England in the late 18th century
 
The Heritage Trust will be holding its Outreach Event in Cambridgeshire this year. The event will begin with lunch (for those wanting one) at the 17th century Three Hills Inn in Bartlow Village on Saturday, 21 June (the summer solstice). We’ll meet at the Three Hills Inn around 12:00pm, leaving there around 1:30pm for the short walk to the Bartlow Burial Mounds.
 
There’s no charge to attend (and lunch, transportation etc is not included in the Event) just an opportunity to share ideas and socialise with likeminded people. Follow our Forthcoming events link at the top of the page for further details.
 
 
The Bartlow Burial Mounds today
Kite Aerial Photograph by Bill Blake Heritage Documentation
All rights reserved, used with permission
 
 

The Trefael Stone

BBC News South West Wales reports yesterday that a ritual burial site in Pembrokeshire may have been in use 10,000 years ago – almost twice as far back as expected –

The Trefael Stone near Nevern was reclassified as a Stone Age burial chamber after its capstone was studied. But a three-year dig [headed Dr George Nash] has since found beads dating back much further, perhaps to the Neolithic or Mesolithic periods.

For centuries the Trefael standing stone was largely disregarded as just one of hundreds of similar Bronze Age monuments. Yet closer analysis of its distinctive cup marks now indicate that they loosely match the pattern of stellar constellations. This would only make sense if, rather than standing upright, it had originally been laid flat as a capstone which would have once been supported by a series of upright stones.

Dr Nash believes the Trefael Stone in fact topped a Neolithic burial chamber, probably a portal dolmen, which is one of western Britain’s earliest burial monument types. “Many years ago Trefael was considered just a simple standing stone lying in a windswept field, but the excavation programme has proved otherwise,” he said. “It suggests that Trefael once lay in the heart of a ritualised landscape that was in operation for at least 5-6,000 years.

Full article here. See also the Welsh Rock-art Organization (WRAO) and our earlier features here and here.

 

The Sutton Hoo ship burial mound, Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, England
©
The Heritage Trust

A new display of the British Museum’s early medieval collections, including the famous Sutton Hoo treasure which was excavated in 1939 from a ship burial mound in Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, England, is scheduled to open this March in Room 41 of the Museum. Made possible through a generous donation by Sir Paul and Lady Jill Ruddock, it is the first full refurbishment of the gallery since 1985, involving replacement of the flooring and roof, and renovation of the internal architecture.

Marking 75 years since their discovery, the gallery’s centrepiece will be the finds from the Sutton Hoo ship burial in Suffolk, one of the most spectacular and important discoveries in British archaeology. Excavated in 1939, on the eve of the Second World War, this grave inside a 27m-long ship may have commemorated an Anglo-Saxon king who died in the early AD 600s. It remains the richest intact burial to survive from Europe. Many of its incredible treasures, like the helmet, gold buckle and whetstone have become icons not only of the British Museum, but of the Early Medieval as a whole. The project coincides with the BP exhibition: Vikings: life and legend in the Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery.

Early seventh century Anglo-Saxon purse-lid from the Sutton Hoo ship burial
©
The Trustees of the British Museum

Replica/reconstruction of the purse-lid in the Sutton Hoo Museum, Sutton Hoo, Suffolk
Image: The Heritage Trust

More on the British Museum website here.

   

 
The Futagoyama keyhole-shaped burial mound in Gyoda, Saitama Prefecture, Japan
Image credit Hiroshi Kawai
 
Takuya Kawasaki, correspondent on the Asahai Shimbun, reports that –
 
Work is under way to drain water and reclaim a moat that protects an ancient burial mound in this city north of Tokyo. The Futagoyama mound is believed to date from the early sixth century. With a budget of 50 million yen ($500,000), the project is set to be completed by the end of fiscal 2014.
 
Serious erosion has occurred along the outer edge of the mound. The keyhole-shaped earthworks, 138 meters long, belongs to the Sakitama burial mound cluster. Many large ancient burial mounds in Japan are surrounded by moats.
 
Full article here.
  
 
The Wiltshire Heritage Museum, Devizes, Wiltshire England
Image credit Willow
 
The Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes, Wiltshire, England has announced the opening, on the 14 October 2013, of its new prehistory galleries  –
 
Gold from the time of Stonehenge: new prehistory galleries at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes. Opening on 14 October, a completely new display over 4 galleries will tell the story of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site.
 
On display for the first time are dozens of gold items dating to the time of Stonehenge. Many were found [in] Bronze Age burial mounds within sight of Stonehenge, and were worn by people who worshipped inside the stone circle. These nationally important objects have never been on permanent display, and are now on show as part of this £750,000 gallery development at the Wiltshire Museum – home of Britain’s richest Bronze Age collection.
 
The centrepiece of the stunning new displays is Britain’s most important Bronze Age burial. The Bush Barrow chieftain lived almost 4,000 years ago and was buried in a barrow overlooking Stonehenge wearing the objects that showed his power and authority – including a gold lozenge, a ceremonial mace and a gold-decorated dagger.
 
More here.
 
 

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