Archaeologists at 'Pompeii of Japan' site find a 1,400 year-old warrior still wearing his armour

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Archaeologists working at Japan's Kanai Higashiura site have unearthed the remains of a Kofun-period warrior and infant — both of whom were killed in a volcanic eruption. The bodies were covered in a layer of volcanic ash that dates to the early 6th century. The discovery, which is a first of its kind, is particularly remarkable in that the warrior is still wearing his lamellar suit. Though 600 armoured suits have been recovered by archaeologists over the years, none were worn by its owner.

Typically, suits like this one, what are called kozaneko or keiko, are found in tombs placed next to the owner, along with various burial goods. But this one is clearly unique.


Archaeologists believe that the Kanai Higashiura site was buried after the eruption of Harunayama Futatsudake in the early part of the 500's. And in fact, nearby sites Kuroimine and Nakasuji were also hit by the disaster. As a result, the team has started to call these sites the "Pompeii of Japan."

The warrior was found face down in the direction of the volcano. And judging by the position of his legs, it's likely that he fell forward from a kneeling position (talk about cinematic!).


Based on his armour, the warrior would have belonged to an elite group of soldiers. The archaeologists are eager to study the remains in more detail — what will help them reconstruct the local history of the region, along with getting a sense of the level of administrative and military control exerted by the central Yamato authorities.


And indeed, as Ancient Japan reports, the man was likely a guard of an elite resistance:

The fact that he is not wearing a full suit of armour (only protection for his torso and thighs) may imply that he was not on official duty, but rather running for cover with his family. Others, citing the size and nature of tombs bearing similar armour, however, believe the man to have been a local ruler of sorts.


In addition to the two bodies, the archaeologists have found a number of tombs along the Tone River, and bunch of arrowheads.

Source and images: Ancient Japan.