The Cleveland Museum of Art

Collection Online as of March 17, 2018

Haniwa in the Form of an Archer, c. 500

earthenware with applied, cut and incised designs and red slip, Overall: 120 x 48.7 x 18 cm (47 3/16 x 19 1/8 x 7 1/16 in.). The Severance and Greta Millikin Purchase Fund 1999.170

The great tumuli (grave mounds) in which the elite members of Kofun-period society were buried remain prominent features of the Japanese landscape today. In areas near Osaka and Nara, in northern Kyushu, and Gumma Prefecture (northwest of Tokyo), they appear as densely wooded hillocks, sometimes surrounded by wide moats. In addition to the burial goods normally found in early tombs in ancient Inner and East Asia, the early Japanese placed hollow ceramic totems or sculptures (haniwa) in rows on tumuli slopes to enhance their visibility, define sacred ground, and perhaps stabilize the earthen mass. Haniwa shapes evolved from simple forms to sophisticated, sculpted shapes atop cylin-drical bases: houses, musical instruments, female shamans, warriors, and horses are well represented.
This haniwa of an archer with an arrow quiver on his back (and part of his helmet missing) is representative of 5th- and 6th-century examples. Found mostly on Gumma Prefecture tumuli, they are thought to symbolize the power of a deceased clan ruler, who was protected with swords, arms and shields. The holes in both front and back were created for use in lifting and moving the figure as necessary during its fabrication. The holes also would have served as vents during the firing process.

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