Two rare and unique swords have been found in a 1,500-year-old underground tunnel tomb in southern Kyushu, Japan. One of them is the longest sword ever found in an ancient Japanese tomb, while the other has a hilt covered in the skin of a stingray – the oldest ray-decorated item found in East Asia.
The Asahi Shimbun reports that the swords were found alongside two sets of skeletal remains, armor, weapons, and horse harnesses in an early 6th century tunnel tomb in the Shimauchi district of southern Kyushu, which was excavated between 2014 and 2015.
According to Heritage of Japan, underground tunnel tombs were a type of burial practice unique to the Kofun period in Japan’s history (250 to 538 AD). They were either stone-lined chambers in the top of mounds and entered from the top, or they were constructed on the ground under the mound and entered from the side through a tunnel called yokoana chamber. The interiors were usually simple, but the individuals buried inside were often found accompanied with precious treasures and grave goods.
An underground tunnel tomb with its earthen covering removed in Nara Prefecture, Japan (public domain)
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