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This tall pottery female figure would have stood with others in a protective circle around the tomb-mound of a powerful Japanese ruler. Her hair is swept up into an elaborate coiffure and she wears a string of beads round her neck.

From the late fourth century AD the leaders of the Yamato state in the Kyoto area established their dominance over other Japanese kingdoms. Their status is apparent in the size and splendour of their tombs -huge mounds known as kofun (old mounds). In the tombs a large earth mound covered a stone chamber in which the stone or wood coffin was placed. The mounds were often marked with circles of low-fired pottery cylinders, or representations of animals, objects, and people such as this example. It is thought that this practice in Japan took the place of the ancient Chinese custom of burying servants and goods with the dead ruler.


From Japan, Kofun period, 6th century
AD Ht55 cm
Gift of Sir A.W. Franks

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