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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The terracotta sarcophagi were generally parallel


resemblance has been pointed out by a Japanese archaeologist, Mr. Teraishi. Dr. Munro states that the same elements are combined in an Egyptian decorative design.

To this inference it has been objected that no bells have been found in the tombs of the Yamato. The same is true, however, of several other objects known to have belonged to that people. If, then, the bells be classed as adjuncts of the Yamato culture, shall we be justified in assigning the bronze weapon to a different race? On the whole, the most reasonable conclusion seems to be that all the bronze relics, weapons, and bells alike, are "vestiges of the Yamato procession at a time anterior to the formation of the great dolmens and other tombs" [Munro]. A corollary would be that the Yamato migrated from China in the days of the Chou dynasty (1122-225 B.C.), and that, having landed in the province of Higo, they conquered the greater part of Tsukushi (Kyushu), and subsequently passed up the Inland Sea to Yamato; which hypothesis would invest with some accuracy the date assigned by the Chronicles to Jimmu's expedition and would constitute a general confirmation of the Japanese account of his line of advance.


The ancient Yamato are known chiefly through the medium of relics found in their sepulchres. Residential sites exist in comparatively small numbers, so far as research ha hitherto shown, and such

sites yield nothing except more or less scattered potsherds and low walls enclosing spaces of considerable area. Occasionally Yamato pottery and other relics are discovered in pits, and these evidences, combined with historical references, go to show that the Yamato themselves sometimes used pit-dwellings.

The tombs yield much more suggestive relics of metal, stone, and pottery. Some four thousand of such sepulchres have been officially catalogued, but it is believed that fully ten times that number exist. The most characteristic is a tomb of larger dimensions enclosing a dolmen which contains a coffin hollowed out from the trunk of a tree, or a sarcophagus of stone,* the latter being much more commonly found, as might be expected from its greater durability. Burial-jars were occasionally used, as were also sarcophagi of clay or terracotta,** the latter chiefly in the provinces of Bizen and Mimasaka, probably because suitable materials existed there in special abundance. Moreover, not a few tombs belonged to the category of cists; that is to say, excavations in rock, with a single-slabbed or many-slabbed cover; or receptacles formed with stone clubs, cobbles, or boulders.

*The stone sarcophagus was of considerable size and various shapes, forming an oblong box with a lid of a boatlike form.

**The terracotta sarcophagi were generally parallel, oblong or elongated oval in shape, with an arched or angular covering and several feet. One has been found with doors moving on hinges.

There is great difficulty in arriving at any confident estimate of age amid such variety. Dolmens of a most primitive kind "exist side by side with stone chambers of highly finished masonry in circumstances which suggest contemporaneous construction" so that "the type evidently furnishes little or no criterion of age," and, moreover, local facilities must have largely influenced the method of building. The dolmen is regarded by archaeologists as the most characteristic feature of the Yamato tombs. It was a chamber formed by setting up large slabs of stone, inclined slightly towards each other, which served as supports for another slab forming the roof. Seen in plan, the dolmens presented many shapes: a simple chamber or gallery; a chamber with a gallery, or a series of chambers with a gallery. Above the dolmen a mound was built, sometimes of huge dimensions (as, for example, the misasagi* of the Emperor Tenchi--d. A.D. 671--which with its embankments, measured 5040 feet square), and within the dolmen were deposited many articles dedicated to the service of the deceased. Further, around the covering-mound there are generally found, embedded in the earth, terracotta cylinders (haniwa), sometimes surmounted with figures or heads of persons or animals.

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