Height: 55.000 cm
Gift of Sir A.W. Franks
Asia JA F2210
Rooms 92-94: Japan
Kofun period, 6th century AD
Pottery model set in the ground at the site of a burial mound
This tall pottery female figure would have stood with others in a protective circle around the tomb-mound of a powerful ruler. Her hair is swept up into an elaborate coiffure, and she wears a string of beads round her neck. The figure is said to have been found near the village of Motomachi close to the port of Konjō in Musashi Province, in present day Tokyo-tō.
From the late fourth century the leaders of the Yamato state in the area around Kyoto had established their dominance over other Japanese kingdoms. They are clearly the founders of the Japanese Imperial line. Their status is made clear in the size and splendour of their tombs - huge mounds or kofun ('old mounds'), which give their name to the historical Kofun period (about third-seventh century AD). In the tombs, a huge earth mound covered a stone chamber in which the stone or wood coffin was placed. The mounds were often marked with circles of low-fired pottery cylinders, or representations of animals, people and objects such as houses. It is thought that this practice in Japan took the place of the ancient Chinese custom of burying servants and goods with the dead ruler.
L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)