Symbolic spaces : decorations as a contextual resource in the study of ishiyakata chamber tombs of the Higo region

by Amanda Suzann Gomes

Institution: University of Hawaii – Manoa
Year: 2016
Keywords: Decorated Kofun; ishiyakata; chamber tombs; architecture and order; Japan
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2069292
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/100697


M.A. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2013. This paper approaches decorative practices as an important context for understanding and exploring the significance of ishiyakata chamber tombs of the 6th century in the Higo region of northern Kyushu. The decorations were centered upon the ishiyakata, a stone sarcophagus-like structure aligned against the back wall of the chamber. Unlike previous forms of decorated burial in which the structures and decorations created a space shared by the remains of the deceased, the decorated ishiyakata was an exclusive, primary burial space often shared by two individuals. The changes in these practices were informed by emergence of local leaders during the 6th century who were buried together with a family unit. These leaders also made use of combinations of motifs and pigments to create affiliations between the individuals buried in ishiyakata chamber tombs. There were at least four distinct groups within the Higo region. During the late 6th century, the decorative program of ishiyakata chamber tombs was also used to navigate transformations to the tomb space. New decorative motifs and combinations were explored in secondary chambers and long hallways, while motifs applied to the ishiyakata were also used within the chamber and archways. These tombs became elaborate spaces designed for both the burial of local leaders as well as for the rituals conducted for them by the living.