Warrior in Keiko Armor, Haniwa (Terracotta Tomb Figurine)


Warrior in Keiko Armor, Haniwa (Terracotta Tomb Figurine)

Archaeology / Kofun / Gunma

Place excavated:From Iizuka-cho, Ota-shi, Gunma

Kofun period, 6th century


H. 130.5


National Treasure

A haniwa terracotta tomb figurine of a warrior, this National Treasure is the pride of the Tokyo National Museum.

Clad in full-body Keiko armor, this dashing figure also carries a sword, a bow, and a quiver of arrows. The figurine offers us a valuable insight into the appearance of the warriors who roamed the Kanto region in the 6th century.

Let's examine the helmet first. With its face protector and neck guard, the shape is unique to the Japanese archipelago. Small, clay studs are affixed to the helmet bowl. This is probably a faithful recreation of how the bowls were made by riveting iron plates together. It seems the armor itself also consisted of small, iron plates laced together. The armor also features a skirt-like part protecting the thigh area. Even the smallest features are faithfully rendered, such as the parts protecting the shoulders and knees, the arm and shin guards, and the shoes. The loop ties on the back show how the armor was fastened together with string.

Let's look at the weapons now. A long, thick sword is attached to the waist and the warrior holds a bow in his left hand. The device wrapped above the left hand is probably there to protect the wrist when the warrior is drawing the bow. The quiver on his back contains five arrows with their heads pointing upwards. This warrior certainly seems fully-equipped for battle.

Several examples of haniwa warriors with similar features have also been excavated in the vicinity of Ota City in eastern Gunma Prefecture, close to where this figurine was found. They share the same high level of craftsmanship and superlative expressiveness, thus suggesting that area was once home to a group of specialist haniwa manufacturers.

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