Bronze Objects in the Shape of Chasing Commas ("Tomoe")
These bronze objects are shaped like chasing commas. Do you know what they are used for? If you look closely, you can see that they have holes in their centers. It is thought that rods were passed through these holes and then the objects were attached to shields or quivers in times of battle. Their four blades are pointed, but they were not used as weapons. In ancient times, it was believed that pointed objects would ward off evil. In other words, it is thought that these objects were “charms” to protect against enemies on the battlefield. The bronze is now bluish-green with verdigris, but when these objects were made, they would have been a gleaming golden color. They were probably eye-catching even on the battlefield.
Bronze objects in the shape of chasing commas, such as these, are unique to Japan. Their production began in the 2nd century, near the end of the Yayoi period (Ca. 5th c. BC–3rd c. AD). The earliest examples have seven or eight blades and a raised cone in their centers. There is a prominent theory that this distinctive shape may have been modeled on a type of sea snail called a spider conch. The centers of these bronze objects are flat, not conical, suggesting that they belong to a type developed in a much later period.