4 Facts About The 1,700-Year-Old Giant Sword Discovered In Japan
Archaeologists think the artifact was too big to be used as a weapon.
Every once in a while, archaeologists or scientists find something from our past that is so cool it reshapes our understanding of history. Recently, archaeologists in Japan did just that when they discovered a 7.5-foot-long iron sword during excavations of a nearly 1,700-year-old burial mound near the city of Nara. The sword was found at the Tomio Maruyama burial mound in November 2022, located in a park just west of Nara. It dates back to the fourth century A.D. But why is the sword so big? Did people fight with it? And what does it mean?
Here are four interesting facts about the newly unearthed sword:
1. It’s the largest sword found in Japan so far and has a unique shape.
This isn’t a little sword, or even a a sword of regular length; it’s an impressive 7.5 feet long. In fact, the sword was so big that researchers first thought that there were multiple swords on the burial mound.
“I was surprised,” Riku Murase, a Nara Archaeological Research Center archaeologist, told Live Science. The sword, he adds, “is twice as big as any other sword found so far in Japan.”
The sword also has an interesting shape. “Like other dakō swords unearthed in the country, this one has an undulating blade that’s reminiscent of a snake,” The Smithsonian shares.
2. The weapon wasn’t used for defense, but for protection.
The massively large sword wasn't likely wielded by a giant who could swing a 7.5-foot weapon. Rather, it was used for protection in the afterlife.
Archaeologist Stefan Maeder, an expert in Japanese swords and ancient sword-making, told Live Science that these swords, called dakō swords, are ceremonial. "I would not say they are common," he said. "They are prestigious objects of high society."
Murase noted that these large swords were also used to help ward off evil spirits during death for those buried with them.
3. The sword was found along with an ancient mirror.
Archeologists are studying this area because they’re likely to find interesting artifacts, and in this case, the sword wasn’t the only thing uncovered. According to The Smithsonian, the researchers also found an interesting mirror.
“The mirror, which is shaped like a shield, was also likely used to ward off evil spirits,” the publication notes. “It measures 25 inches by 12 inches and weighs more than 12 pounds, making it the largest of its kind discovered in Japan, too.”
4. This discovery may mean the Kofun period was more advanced than first believed.
The newly discovered sword is believed to be from the Kofun period, which took place in Japan from about 300 to 538 AD. Researchers think the sword indicates that people of the period may have known more than initially believed.
"(These discoveries) indicate that the technology of the Kofun period are beyond what had been imagined," Kosaku Okabayashi, the deputy director for Nara Prefecture's Archaeological Institute of Kashihara, told the Kyodo News Agency. "They are masterpieces in metalwork from that period."
For more information and images, check out the Nara City Video on YouTube.