About 1700 years ago, giant tumuli (graves) called kofun were built across Japan. Haniwa, terracotta clay figures fired in a special kiln, were placed around the kofun. There are two broad categories of haniwa based on their shapes: cylindrical haniwa (simple, jar-like haniwa) and figurine haniwa (depicting humans, animals, buildings, and tools).
These are simple, cylindrical haniwa. Because so many were found lined up on the top and edges of the kofun like a fence, it is believed they were the most common type of haniwa produced. This haniwa has two types: plain cylinders and cylinders with one end that opens into a shape like a trumpet or morning-glory flower. It is also believed that thousands of these haniwa were arranged near and on large kofun at the time of their construction.
This haniwa represents a quiver, a cylindrical object used to carry arrows. Lines carved on the clay depict arrows.
This haniwa represents a Kofun Period building. There are other house-shaped haniwa that are hypothesized to represent dwellings, storage buildings, ceremonial buildings, and palaces. These haniwa, which display a variety of features such as doors, windows, and roofs, are valuable artifacts in understanding Kofun Period architecture.
A wide variety of human-shaped haniwa have been found depicting all walks of life, including warriors, priestesses, nobles, wrestlers, farmers, and musicians. (The haniwa pictured here is of a male playing a harp.) Some of these haniwa have scarlet markings on their faces that represent tattoos. Human-shaped haniwa were placed in and around the kofun in themed sets rather than as individual pieces. These sets of human-shaped haniwa are thought to depict those present at a king's succession ceremony and reflect life in the ruling class.
Animal-Shaped Haniwa (Horses)
Animal-shaped haniwa include horses, birds, wild boars, and dogs. Out of all animal-shaped haniwa, horses are overwhelmingly the most numerous. Haniwa depicting elaborately decorated horses, such as the one pictured, are particularly valuable resources in understanding what kind of horse tack (equipment) existed and how it was used during the Kofun Period. There was also a human-shaped haniwa, depicting a man wearing a sickle and holding a horse lead, discovered in front of a horse-shaped haniwa.
Ｔhe Saitama Prefectural Museum of the Sakitama Ancient Burial Mounds