Higashidonozuka-kofun Tumulus (a large keyhole-shaped mound in Tenri City, Nara Prefecture) (東殿塚古墳)

Higashidonozuka-kofun Tumulus is located in Tenri City, Nara Prefecture. It is a large keyhole-shaped mound constructed in the early Kofun period (tumulus period).


This tumulus is estimated from the excavated Haniwa (unglazed terra-cotta cylinders and hollow sculptures arranged on and around the kofun [the mounded tombs]) to have been constructed approximately at the beginning of the fourth century. It is arranged parallel to Nishitonotsuka-kofun Tumulus (length: 234 meters), a huge keyhole-shaped mound, which is a bit older than Higashidonozuka-kofun Tumulus, right on the east side. Both tumuli are located on an inclined plane. The principal axis is oriented north and south. They are located on a high place, which is approximately 140 meters above sea level. The whole area of Nara Basin can be looked down from the top of the tumulus.

Form of the tumulus

The length of the tumulus is 139 meters, and the form of the back circular part is rather oval toward the principal axis, and the front square part is long. The ratio of the length of the back circular part to that of the front square part is 1 to 1.5. The principal axis is oriented north and south, and there is a difference in height between the east and west sides. The top of the back circular part is ruined, and it has no particular form. The narrow section of the front square part is flat, and the level of the end is heightened in a trapezoidal shape. It was confirmed that Haniwa were arranged in two rows and stones were lined up there. It is presumed that cylindrical Haniwa were arranged circularly around the tumulus on a slope at the upper part of the tumulus.

Boat drawings made on the excavated Haniwa, and so on

Ancient structural remnants used for religious services, which resemble narrow terraces, were found in a corner on the west side of the front square part by excavations and researches. A lot of debris of Haniwa was excavated there. An elliptical cylindrical Haniwa was restored, which is approximately 64 centimeters in height and approximately 50 centimeters in maximum diameter. Three boat drawings engraved with a spatula-like tool were found on the lower part of the restored Haniwa. They were named Boat Drawings Nos. 1 to 3.

The Boat Drawing No. 1 is the most detailed one. The drawn boat has the same style as a gondola. Seven paddles are drawn there. Therefore, it is interpreted as a drawing depicting a large boat rowed by 14 men sailing with the wind on the sea.

Haniwa in the shape of a broad-rimmed vase, cylindrical Haniwa, elliptical cylindrical Haniwa, earthenware, and so on, were excavated at the edge of the trapezoid on the west side of the front square part.
Some cylindrical Haniwa have fins, too
Each section has a fin. Openworks of a comma-shaped heraldic design or in the shape of a square, a rectangle, or a circle are carved on its cylinder.

The excavated pieces of earthenware include not only a lot of broken pieces, but also many pieces that were used to make an offering to a tomb, an altar, and so on, and still remain intact. They also include earthenwares made in other regions such as Sanin, Omi and Tokai. They are estimated to be the oldest form in Japan.