Mesuriyama Tumulus (メスリ山古墳)

The Mesuriyama tumulus is a large keyhole-shaped tumulus in the early kofun period (tumulus period), located in Sakurai City, Nara Prefecture.


Located on the immediate left side of the Hatsuse-gawa River bordered on the place called Iware, this tumulus belongs to the Torimiyama tumulus group, together with the 208-meter-long Sakurai Chausuyama tumulus (also called the Tobi Chausuyama tumulus). Its particular feature is that the secondary rock chamber of the burial facility looks exactly like a room for keeping articles left by the person buried there. This tumulus was constructed later than the Hashihaka tumulus.

Because no record showing that this is an imperial mausoleum is included in "Kojiki" (The Records of Ancient Matters), in "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan) nor in "the Engishiki" (an ancient book for codes and procedures on national rites and prayers), there is a theory in which this tumulus should be excluded from the tumuli for Emperors.

The size and shape

The length of the tumulus is 224 meters (there is a theory that the length is 250 meters). No subsidiary tomb is found around there.

On the top of the round part of the tumulus, there is an approx. 11.3m X approx. 4.8m rectangle mound whose height is supposed to be 1m or higher, surrounded by haniwa (unglazed terra-cotta cylinders and hollow sculptures arranged on and around the mounded tombs [kofun]) like takegaki (a bamboo fence).

The tokushu-kidai (ceremonial vessel stand) and tokushu tsubo (ceremonial jar), with a height of 2.4m and with a diameter of 1.3m, is the largest of its kind in Japan. Haniwa is unearthed as well.

The burial facility

At the center of the top of the round part, there is a vertical style stone chamber, constituting a main stone chamber where a wooden coffin is placed. Having been excavated by bandits, almost no relic remains there.

The 6-meter-long X 70-centimeter-wide X 60-centimeter-high secondary stone chamber beside the main stone chamber has been escaped from being excavated by bandits. It is a gassho-shiki type (a type with the shape of putting the palms of hands together) stone chamber, and no dead body was placed there, with only arms being buried. Therefore, it is considered that the place was for storing things, including articles left by the person buried there.

Grave goods

From what were excavated from there, we can get some knowledge about what were buried in tumuli in Nara Prefecture in the early kofun period

In the main stone chamber, products made using precious stones, such as magadama (comma-shaped beads of hisui (jade)), cylindrical beads of jasper, stone bracelets resembling shell bracelets, miniature chairs of stone, miniature combs and miniature lidded small containers, were placed.

In the secondary stone chamber, 212 iron halberds each with a shaft were placed in the way that about each half of them were placed with their tips against one end of the room. It is supposed that each of them was provided with a long shaft. They were weapons that were used in fights between groups. Iron halberds each with an iron-sword type tip shape, which were also unearthed in the southern part of the Korean peninsular as well as in the northern Kyushu area, constituted main arms at that time. The weapons were used widely throughout the Japanese archipelago, and it is certain that hammering technique was fully used to make them in Japan as well. 236 copper arrowheads, 50 stone arrowheads, an iron bow, and five iron arrows were also found there. It is considered that the iron bow and iron arrows were not for practical use but for scaring enemies that is the original function of weapons. It is also supposed that wooden bows would also have been placed there. There were a double-edged sword and a single-edged sword. In addition, farming tools, such as axes (14 iron axes), 19 handy sickles, a borer, 51 yari-ganna planes (with blades like those for spears), a Tosu (small knife), and a saw, were also found there.

[Original Japanese]