Thursday, February 23, 2006

Remains of funeral boat found at Suyama tomb

The Daily Yomiuri (Japan): "Several large vermillion-lacquered wood fragments believed to be part of a funeral boat were unearthed at the Suyama ancient tomb in Koryocho, Nara Prefecture, the local board of education has announced.

The fragments bear inscribed patterns and were unearthed from the moat surrounding the tomb, which dates from the late fourth century.

Researchers said the fragments were part of a funeral boat that was used to transport human remains from a mortuary to a tomb over land.

One of the fragments is a piece of Japanese cedar measuring 3.7 meters long, 45 centimeters wide and five centimeters thick. It was originally part of an 8.2-meter-long piece of wood believed to be from one side of the boat. The fragment is decorated with triple concentric circles, intended to ward off evil spirits, and a beltlike pattern.

A piece of Japanese cinnamon measuring 2.1 meters long, 78 centimeters wide and 25 centimeters thick, is believed to be part of a coffin lid, and was originally part of a four-meter-long piece of wood. It is adorned with straight and curved lines and also triple concentric circles. The fragment retains some of its original vermillion lacquer finish.

If these fragments were to be assembled, they would suggest the shape of a boat with upward arching pointed ends, like a gondola, with a coffin on it."