Japanese researchers discovered a large dakō iron sword and a giant bronze mirror in a 4th-century burial mound in the city of Nara.
The two items were found last November in the Tomio Maruyama Tumulus. Nara’s board of education and the city’s archeological institute, who supported the excavation of both items, issued a press release about the discovery this week.
According to the local government groups, the 125-pound, shield-shaped decorated mirror was the first of its kind to be discovered, and the seven-foot iron serpentine dakō sword is the largest and oldest from the Kofun period (300 CE–710 CE) to be found. Experts say this allows the two items from the Tomio Maruyama Tumulus to be classified as national treasures.
Kosaku Okabayashi, the deputy director for Nara Prefecture’s Archaeological Institute of Kashihara, told the Japan Times that the two items were a breakthrough in research, indicating that technology from the era was “beyond what we had been imagined, and they are masterpieces in metalwork from that period.”
The shield-shaped mirror is two feet long and one foot wide, and features geometric designs and patterns similar to daryu mirrors, which are based on imaginary characters. An X-ray taken of the mirror detected tin, copper, and lead.
The sword has a wavy, snake-like shape and markings that denote a sheath and handle. According to the Japan Times, more than 80 other dakō swords have been found throughout Japan so far.
Nara University archaeology professor Naohiro Toyoshima told Kyodo News that the sword and the shield-shaped mirror, used to protect the dead from evil spirits, may also indicate that the individual they were buried with was involved in military and ritualistic matters.
Riku Murase, a member of the team who excavated the objects, said the length of the sword was so surprising that his team initially thought it was several items. He told Kyodo News he thought they had found a unique bronze plate.
“It was my dream to dig up a mirror. Who knew that it would be something so incredible,” he said.