Mounded Tombs of Ancient Japan added to World Heritage list


Two tumulus clusters in western Japan that represent an outstanding type of ancient East Asian burial mound construction and the hierarchy of society at the time have been added to the World Heritage list.

Located on a plateau above the Osaka Plain, the site, called Mozu-Furuichi tumulus clusters, includes 49 kofun (old mounds in Japanese) and includes the country’s largest keyhole-shaped mound named after Emperor Nintoku, who is said to have reigned in the fourth century. “Burial mounds of various sizes, kofun can take the form of keyholes, scallops, squares or circles,” the World Heritage Committee said in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan where it has been holding its meeting.

“These tombs were for members of the elite, containing a range of funerary objects, such as weapons, armor and ornaments. They were decorated with clay figures, known as haniwa, which can take the form of cylinders or representations of houses, tools, weapons and human silhouettes. This kofun has been selected from a total of 160,000 in Japan and form the richest material representation of the Kofun period, from the third to the sixth century. They demonstrate the differences in social classes of that period and reflect a highly sophisticated funerary system.” The 486-meter-long Emperor Nintoku mausoleum, part of the Mozu cluster in Sakai, is one of the three largest mounded tombs in the world, along with the mausoleum of the first Qin emperor in China and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.

The Furuichi cluster, which includes the Emperor Ojin mausoleum, the second-largest mound in Japan with a length of 425 meters, is about 10 kilometers to the east of the Mozu cluster. Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura told reporters in Baku that the sites would be promoted as tourist attractions without compromising their preservation. Local authorities in 2007 applied to have the sites on the World Heritage list.

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