– The sword was one of the most important weapons of the ancient Japanese. There were various types of swords and they all differed by size, shape, field of application and method of manufacture.
Now, the longest sword ever has been unearthed in an ancient Japanese underground tomb dating to the early sixth century. Archaeologists describe the artifact as one-of-a-kind discovery.
It was found along with another intriguing sword recovered from the underground tunnel tomb, known only as Burial Site 139, located on Japan’s southernmost island of Kyushu in the Miyazaki Prefecture.
The longest sword is approximately 142 centimeters long, including the remains of a wooden pommel. According to researchers, the fully reconstructed length of the sword would be approximately 150 centimeters, which makes it the longest sword ever found in an ancient Japanese tomb. Details such as a warp-patterned brocade on the scabbard of the sword further distinguish the weapon, as there have only been three other archaeological finds of the expensive textile, known as “tatenishiki”, dating back to the Kofun Period.
According to Asahi Shimbun newspaper, the second sword’s hilt is covered with ray skin, making it the oldest ray-decorated item found in East Asia. It’s about 85 centimeter long with a round pommel decorated with silver, features hilt wrappings made from granular ray skin. Researchers believe that the sword originated from the Paekche Kingdom, one of the “Three Kingdoms” that once ruled the Korean Peninsula. Paekche is thought to have had strong ties to Yamato Japan.
The swords were placed by skeletal remains in the tomb no. 139, and both are signs of high social status.
“The swords suggest there was a powerful person in southern Kyushu, who would have directly served someone in the upper rank close to the Yamato king, and would have gone overseas in charge of foreign politics,” said Tatsuya Hashimoto, an associate professor of archaeology at Kagoshima University Museum, who collaborated in the research.
The style and construction of Burial Site 139 reinforce its ties to the Kofun Period, as it matches other underground tunnel tombs found in the Mizazaki prefecture and the nearby Kagoshima prefecture.
Archaeologists have previously unearthed many valuable ancient artifacts at the site. These include ancient armor, weapons and grave goods.