Ancient, News

A 7-foot-long ‘demon slaying’ sword found in Japan

Archaeologists found a seven-foot-long ‘demon’ sword buried in a tomb that is over 1600 years old. Archaeologists believe that the sword helped the deceased fight evil spirits in the afterlife. 

  • Archaeologists found a seven-foot-long sword buried in a 1600-year-old tomb.
  • The swords are from the Japanese Kofun era, which marked the beginning of the keyhole burial mounds. 
  • Found in Nara, Japan, it is the biggest and oldest sword found in Japan to this date. 

The tomb belongs to the Tomiomaruyama burial mound located in Nara, Japan. In the tomb, archaeologists found a 16-foot-long wooden coffin deep in the mound. The coffin had the demon-slaying sword and a two-foot-long mirror shield. 

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What’s interesting is that the sword is the largest and oldest one found in Japan to date. 

The national treasure suggests that the tomb belonged to an elite who may have served in the military. The burial mound is more appropriately known as the ‘kofun.’ According to Live Science, the Japanese made these mounds during their historical Kofun era.

The blade of the ‘dragon slayer’ sword can be seen at the dig site.

It is thought that they were made between 300 and 710 AD. 

Archaeologists have been excavating the mound for a year now, removing dirt that was 350 feet wide and 32 feet high.

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The team of archaeologists shared in a press release, “So far, we have conducted aerial laser surveys (first survey) and excavation surveys (second to fifth surveys), and obtained important results in clarifying the structure of the burial mounds.”

Survey Results

A survey proved that there were ritual spaces within the mound. It led the archeologists to a grave where a clay box housed a coffin.

In Japanese folklore Susanoo slays the dragon Yamata no Orochi with a sword.

According to the team, “The coffin is believed to have been placed in a deeply recessed portion of the bottom of the grave pit, and a thin layer of clay and sand was leveled about 30cm outside the position where the coffin lid would be placed.”

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That is where they uncovered the giant sword and mirror shield. 

The Dako (demon-slaying) Sword

The six foot bladed sword is known as a Dako. Likely, the sword was never actually used. Instead, it seems it was to lay with the deceased as a part of the burial ritual. 

The Dako sword has an undulating blade that resembles a snake due to its massive size. As reported by Kyodo News, researchers first thought that multiple swords lined up next to each other. 

In Japan, more than 80 such swords have been found. However, this sword stands out for obvious reasons. It’s huge. 

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Moreover, the mirror found with the sword is shaped like a tortoise shell. It is carved from copper and leans diagonally, matching the shape of the clay covering the coffin lid. Archaeologists explained that the mirror had a knob on its back and patterns on the sawtooth pattern. It is a mirror never seen before. 

Mirror Shield
A mirrored shield was also found within the tomb. Mirrors were high class objects within Japan.

The team continued, “The surface is smooth and polished, and it is believed to have been made by a Japanese mirror craftsman.” The mirror is approximately 125 pounds in weight. X-ray detected tin, copper, and lead in the mirror. 

In Japan, mirrors hold immense cultural importance – they are among the most potent symbols of power. It is a sacred object that represents gods. Many also believe that mirrors connect the real world to the spiritual world. 

Kosaku Okabayashi, the Deputy Director for Nara Prefecture’s Archaeological Institute of Kashihara, told Kyodo News, “(These discoveries) indicate that the technology of the Kofun period is beyond what had been imagined.”

These are masterpieces in metalwork from the Japanese Kofun era. 

The Kofun Era

The Kofun era marks the introduction of Buddhism in Japan. The word kofun is Japanese for a type of burial mound dating from this era. Moreover, it is the earliest era of recorded history in Japan.

China and the Korean Peninsula heavily influenced the Kofun period in Japan; archaeologists consider it a shared culture across the southern Korean Peninsula, Kyūshū, and Honshū.

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The Kofun era is also characterized by its unique burial mounds that are shaped like keyholes. These burial mounds were built for ruling class members from the 3rd to the 7th centuries in Japan.

Many Western scholars call the Kofun period the Yamato period since this local chieftainship became the imperial dynasty at the end of the period. These findings serve as a reminder of our limited understanding of history and our tendency to undervalue the abilities of our predecessors.