Tomb Sculpture ("Haniwa"): Man Carrying a Hoe


Tomb Sculpture ("Haniwa"): Man Carrying a Hoe

Archaeology / Kofun / Gunma

Place excavated:Found at Akaborimura No. 104 Tumulus, Gunma

Kofun period, 6th century


高91.9 最大幅23.0 奥行23.0 底径17.1


Haniwa are terracotta tomb sculptures placed on or around the tumuli of powerful figures in Japan from the 3rd to the 6th century. This figure strikes an unusual pose, with elbows pushed out and both hands pressed against the chest. He is also holding a hoe over his left shoulder. There are also traces of where a scythe was tucked into a belt worn around the waist. Hoes are used for tilling soil and scythes for cutting rice plants or grass, so we know this depicts a farmer. The broad smile is either there to drive away evil spirits or to express joy at the abundant bounties of nature.

The shape of this type of haniwa is extremely simple. The heads are tapered like onions. This suggests earlier haniwa may have worn bamboo farming hats, with the original significance lost and the hats and heads fused together as the haniwa were copied down the ages. The hairstyle is known as 'mizura' and it was common to men of that era. There were two types of 'mizura' hairstyle. The 'hanging mizura' style involved parting the hair over the forehead and tying it up in bundles over the ears. This was the style of high-ranking figures like kings and warriors. The 'standing mizura' style involved folding the hair up in a bundle on top of the head. This was the style of low-ranking people. This figure sports a 'standing mizura' style, partly owing to his status as a farmer but also because it was a convenient style for working in the fields. However, this figure also wears hooped earrings and he has a sword dangling from his left hip. There are also splashes of red on both cheeks and the top of the head. This suggests he may have been a head farmer or someone who was involved in the building of the tumulus.

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