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A Rare Deer Haniwa from the Hetabira Kofun in Hamakita

The area of Hamamatsu  in Shizuoka Prefecture has been settled since the final Palaeolithic. The Negata cave, situated in a lime stone quarry in Hamakita, produced human fossils in two different ‘human bed’ layers (Shuzuki et al. 1966). The younger ones were radiocarbon dated to about 14 ka cal BC, the human tibia from the lower levels could not be directly dated since no collagen was preserved.However, comparable leopard/tiger bones were dated to 17 ka cal BC (Kondo, M & Matsu’ura, Sh 2005, 159).

During the early Kofun period (3rd to 7th century AD) Hamamatsu must have been controlled by a powerful clan (Gōzoku 豪族) which is evidenced by the many cairns, kofun , bronze bells and so on. The smaller Hetabira 1 keyhole kofun ( 辺田1号墳遺跡 ) from the late 5th century was excavated in 1997.

hetabira kofun

Contour of the not preserved Hetabira kofun
(c) bing maps

Among the haniwa (clay figurines that were placed on and around a burial hill) was a rare deer haniwa. The only other comparable haniwa are from the Kashihara Kofun in Nara Pref. and the Matsue Kofun in Shimane Pref. After five years of restoration, these haniwa will now go on exhibition.

The deer haniwa is 90 cm high and 80 cm long. The deer is looking backwards at its hunter. The huntsman figurine is only partially preserved. Only the body and the arm with parts of the bow survived.

In the kofun period, hunting scenes were symbols for the rulership over the land, a means of legitimisation. These haniwa are a further piece of evidence to support the autonomous role of clans in the early to middle kofun period.

The exhibition starts on the 12th of September 2013 in the Hamakita Regional Museum, 〒 434-0038 Hamakita Culture Center, 291-1 Kibune, Hamakita-ku, Hamamatsu-shi. Tel. 053-586-6207.


Kondo, M and Matsu’ura, Sh 2005. Dating of the Hamakita human remains from Japan, Anthropological Science 113, 150-61.

Suzuki, H, Takai, F, Endo, B, Hasegawa, Y, Chinzei, K, and Tanabe, G 1966. Hamakita man and the site of Nekata Limestone Quarry at Hamakita. Journal of the Anthropological Society Nippon 74, 101-176.



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