Fujinoki Tumulus (藤ノ木古墳)

Fujinoki Tumulus is a tumulus in Ikaruga-cho, Ikoma-gun, Nara Prefecture. Today the surrounding area is named "Fujinoki." It is believed that the area was called "Misasagiyama" in the past.

It is estimated that the tumulus is a round barrow from the late Kofun period (tumulus period), between A.D. 576 and A.D. 600, as numerous Haji pottery and Sue pottery were excavated from the burial chamber. Around this time, building keyhole-shaped mounds was winding down in Kinai region (provinces surrounding Kyoto and Nara).

The tumulus is located approximately 350 meters west of Horyu-ji Temple Saiin Garan (the Western Precinct). At present, the surrounding area is improved as a park with many explanation signboards. Thus the area has become a tourist attraction near Horyu-ji Temple.
(See the picture on the right.)

Overview

Through the excavation and research, it is estimated that the tumulus was a round barrow of 48 meters in diameter and approximately 9 meters in height. The tumulus, however, has worn away by inches. It is now measured 7.6 meters in height and approximately 40 meters in diameter at the longest. The custom to arrange Haniwa (terra-cotta figures) around the mounded tombs was believed to have ended in the first half of the sixth century in Yamato Province. This conventional view had to be revised when arranged Haniwa were found at the foot of the tumulus.

Stone chamber and stone coffin

Two adult males were casketed together in an iegata sekkan (house-shaped stone coffin) which was placed in an undisturbed horizontal stone chamber. At the site with some of the mound removed from the foot of the tumulus, is the enmon (entrance) of the endo (hallway to a burial chamber) which was covered with mound. The short endo leads to a both-sleeves-type burial chamber. The burial chamber was designed to be at the center of this round barrow. The stone chamber is slightly less than 14 meters long. The burial chamber is a little over 6 meters long on the west side wall, a little under 3 meters wide, and nearly 3 meters high. The endo is a little longer than 7 meters in length and a little over 2 meters in width. The floor of the stone chamber is covered with pebbles and a drain is running underneath, from the center of the burial chamber through the endo to the foot of the tumulus.

The stone coffin was placed in the back of the burial chamber. White tuff from Mt. Nijo was used to make the coffin. The inside and the outside of the stone coffin is painted with red pigment, specifically the one made from mercury. The coffin is approximately 235 centimeters long, 130 centimeters wide, and 97 centimeters tall. Its lid is approximately 230 centimeters long, 130 centimeters wide, and 52 to 55 centimeters thick, with a projection for tying up.

The buried

The burial goods such as gilt bronze harness, personal adornments and swords were found, so the tumulus was supposedly built to bury someone in the governing class of the time. The buried people are thought to be, not great kings but family members of a great king, as the tumulus is a round barrow.

Michio MAEZONO (Professor, Nara College of Arts) and Taichiro SHIRAISHI (Professor, Nara University) argue that it is highly possible Prince Anahobe (uncle of Prince Taishi, assassinated by SOGA no Umako) and Prince Yakabe (prince of the Emperor Senka) are the ones that were buried in this tumulus, because the tumulus was built when an assassination happened in June 587 according to "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan).

Motohiko IZAWA, on the other hand, argues that Prince Anahobe was originally buried in the tumulus and the Emperor Sushun, his younger maternal half-brother, joined later, based on the burial goods and the burial status.

There is also a theory that the one that was buried in the south side was a woman.

Excavation and research
The excavation and research was conducted five times between 1985 and 2003 by Ikaruga Town Board of Education and Archaeological Institute of Kashihara, Nara Prefecture.

First excavation and research (July 22 to December 31, 1985)
During the first excavation and research which started in 1985, a 13.95-meter-long horizontal chamber was found along with an hollowed iegata sekkan (house-shaped stone coffin). Between the stone coffin and the back wall, harness such as gilt bronze saddle hardware as well as arms, Haji pottery, and Sue pottery were excavated.
('Gilt bronze' is gold-plated copper.)
Three sets of harness were found, among which the one made of gilt bronze is said to be one of the most luxurious harness set found from the ancient East Asia.

This gilt bronze saddle is in Senbi style with patterns of palmette (Buddhist-style arabesque design), phoenixes, dragons, devil masks, strange fish, elephants, lions, and rabbits. Saddles with similar design were excavated in Chaoyang City (Liaoning Province, China) where used to be the capital of Northern Yan of the Sixteen Kingdoms, a Senbi nation. However similar types of saddles have never been excavated in Japan, Silla, Baekje or Gaya, so the saddle seems to be remarkably rare.

Second excavation and research (May 9 to July 8, 1988)
The tumulus figure and scale were confirmed. Inside the stone coffin was examined with a fiberscope.

Third excavation and research (September 30 to December 28, 1988)
Subsequently the excavation and research inside the undisturbed iegata sekkan (house-shaped stone coffin) was conducted in 1988. Bones of two humans (two men were supposedly buried together) were excavated along with burial goods such as swords (six of them including long ones), personal adornments (such as gilt bronze crown), mirrors and gems. Among these excavated articles, the gilt bronze saddle hardware has exquisite openwork animal designs that shows sophisticated metal work technique. It is estimated that the saddle was shipped from the Continent. 二山広帯冠 was restored using gilt bronze hardware with Ancient Chinese accessory.

The tumulus is designated as the state's historic site. All the excavated articles were designated as the national important cultural property in 1988 for their importance in the tumulus culture research in Japan. Later in 2004, the excavated articles were designated as national treasure and they are now in permanent exhibition at the Museum, Archaeological Institute of Kashihara, Nara Prefecture.