AbstractsPolitical Science

Decorated Tombs in Southwest Japan: Behind the Identity and the Socio-Political Developments of the Late Kofun Society in Kyūshū

by Claudia Zancan

Institution: Leiden University
Year: 2013
Keywords: Late Kofun; Kyūshū; Decorated tombs; Identity; Socio-political developments
Record ID: 1264614
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/21067


The interactions among two or more cultures have always had a great importance for what concerns archaeology, since the influences these have had on material culture have often triggered intrinsic processes within the society. As a consequence, a new tradition would have been created where it is not possible anymore to recognise what is a foreign element and what is an autochthonous one. In the case of the Japanese archipelago, the relations between the Kyūshū island, the Chinese Han empire and the southern part of the Korean Peninsula led to a material culture which shows the different natures these relations had. Furthermore, these relations triggered some socio-political processes which led to a political hierarchy which reflected especially on the development of the mortuary architecture of the mounded tombs typical of the Kofun Period (250-710 AD). This thesis aims to analyse the nature of the interactions between Kyūshū and the Korean Kingdom of Paekche, as well as the influences these interactions had on the mortuary architecture of the Late Kofun Period (475-710 AD). The phenomenon of the decorated tombs will be taken as specific case study of a shared element between the two cultures. The discussion of the data gathered specifically for this thesis, regarding 21 sample sites from Fukuoka and Kumamoto prefectures, attempts to show how through the decorated tombs it is possible to gain new information regarding the Late Kofun society in Kyūshū, and how interactions not always lead to a complete adoption of foreign element. Using literary analysis and Barnes’ (2007) similar research regarding the two previous phases of the Kofun Period, preliminary results show evidence that the interactions between Ky¬ūshū and southern Korea during the late Kofun Period were not as one-sided as is often believed. The Late Kofun decorated tombs appear to be neither merely a copy of Korean examples, nor a completely indigenous innovation, but rather a combination of the two. Where the differences in decoration show a distinct separate identity base on long previous traditions, the similarities in architecture show evidence of “Peer Polity Interaction”, a theory expounded by Renfrew (1986) and evidenced for the earlier two periods in Barnes’ (2007) research.