An Early Han Dynasty bronze mirror is recovered from the seal of a burial jar's lid. The grave of a woman dressed in silk, with shell bracelets stacked tightly on both arms, is discovered.

jar burial

Jar burial yielding a bronze mirror and shell bracelets
After placing the burial jar, 94 cm in height, at an angle of 44 degrees within the burial pit over 1.9 m long by more than 1.9 m wide, and interring the corpse, clay was wrapped around the mouth of the jar to serve as a seal, and a single flat stone used as a lid to make an airtight cover. A red circle matching the diameter of the jar's rim was painted on the inner surface of the stone lid with cinnabar. A bronze mirror was recovered from within the clay seal. (SJ2775)

bracelets in situ

Shell bracelets in situ (from the east)
Shell bracelets made from cone shells were recovered as placed on the body, with vertical type items on the fully extended right forearm, and horizontal type items on the left arm flexed from the elbow. They appear to have been worn with no gaps between adjacent bracelets. (SJ2775)

Bracelets Bracelets

Bracelets fashioned from cone shells (left: vertical type, right: horizontal type)
There were twenty-five items of the vertical type placed on the right arm and eleven horizontal type items on the left; in both instances those at the base of the hand were slightly larger, growing smaller at the wrist, then becoming increasingly larger toward the elbow. Vertical types ranged from 6.0 to 7.8 cm in length, and horizontal types from 5.1 to 7.0 cm.


Methods of fashioning horizontal type (left) and vertical type (right) bracelets from cone shells


Bronze mirror
A finely made example of an Early Han Dynasty renkomon style mirror. An inscription meaning "Though long we shall not meet, for long let us not forget," is legible. Bits of cinnabar adhered at several points to the decorated surface. Diameter 7.4 cm.

Photos courtesy of Saga Prefectural board of education.

Yoshinogari Site, Kanzaki Town/Mitagawa Town/Higashi Seburi Village, Saga Prefecture

Designated as a special historic site, Yoshinogari is located atop a ridge in the southern foothills of the Seburi mountains, and consists of the remains of a large-scale settlement and burial grounds from the Yayoi period. Beginning at the start of the Early Yayoi period as a small moated village, it developed from 2.5 hectares in the Early Yayoi to over 20 hectares in the Middle Yayoi, and then into the colossal size of 40 hectares in the Late Yayoi period. As for the burial grounds, in addition to a cemetery of jar burials made in extremely long rows, a large burial mound yielding bronze daggers and large numbers of cylindrical glass beads, in which succeeding members of the chiefly line are thought to have been interred, is worth special mention.

Discovery of a bronze mirror and shell bracelets

A bronze mirror and shell bracelets were recovered from a stone-lidded jar burial of the latter half of the Middle Yayoi period, in the southern portion of the cemetery containing the long rows of burials. The bronze mirror was recovered fractured from within the clay used to seal the space between the mouth of the jar and the stone lid, although it is thought to have been originally put in place in one piece. It is 7.4 cm in diameter, bears an eight-character inscription, and is a finely made example of the renkomon style (having a pattern of interconnected arcs) from the Early Han Dynasty.

The shell bracelets were made from cone shells (family Conidae) from the south seas, and were found placed on the arms of the skeleton of a woman buried in the jar, with twenty-five vertical type items on the right arm, and eleven horizontal type items on the left. The bracelets of both arms were placed with slightly larger items at the base of the hand, smaller ones at the wrist, then becoming gradually larger toward the elbow. If worn with no gaps separating adjacent bracelets, the total lengths appear to be the same for both arms. The find is the largest number of bracelets made of shell from the south seas worn on a single arm, and fragments of silk cloth which appear to have been clothing were recovered in the vicinity of the bracelets.

The jar burial's occupant

Dressed in silk, wearing numerous bracelets of shell from the south seas that shone like pearls, and possessing a finely made Chinese bronze mirror, the occupant of this jar burial, thought to be a priestess, gives direct testimony to international relations during the Yayoi period, and provides important data for understanding Yayoi society and social status or class. Further, it is thought that the bronze mirror, placed atop the jar's rim with its reflective surface facing outward, was held to have efficacy in defending against malevolent spirits trying to penetrate the grave from the outside. (Shichida Tadaaki)