Changes in Elite Symbolism From Keyhole Tombs to Buddhist Temples in Seventh-century Japan
Ken’ichi SASAKI, Professor of Archaeology, Meiji University
It is a widely accepted hypothesis that, once the construction of keyhole-tombs as the symbol of authority declined toward the end of the sixth century, square tumuli took over for a while in the middle seventh century, and eventually the practice of mound construction as the symbol of authority was replaced by the practice of building Buddhist temples by the end of the seventh century. This is indeed the case in many regions of Japan. For example, at the Ryukakuji tumulus group site in northern Chiba Prefecture (old province of Shimôsa), an early seventh-century keyhole tomb, a mid-seventh-century large square tumulus, and a late seventh-century Buddhist temple are all located in close vicinity. At the same time recent results of archaeological excavations show a wide variety of patterns of change in elite symbolism. For instance in southern Ibaraki (old province of Hitachi), a Buddhist temple was erected in the late seventh century in an area where a giant fifth-century keyhole tomb was built, but there are no sixth-century keyhole tombs or seventh- century square tumuli. I intend to present the results of my recent research on this thee, which indicate a variety of patterns in the shift from keyhole tombs to Buddhist temples.