Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>500 Kofun horse-archer
Subject: horse-archer
Culture: Kofun
Setting: Japan 3rd-6thc

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Farris 1992 p17-18
"As Japanese soldiers learned to ride horses, they improved their skills and weapons for mounted combat.  It is probably true that Korean fighters swung swords from their mounts as they swooped in on their prey, and the Japanese undoubtedly copied this tactic.  But even in the sixth century, Japanese mounted warriors probably preferred the bow and arrow.  Archery had always been the most popular and most advanced form of combat, and, while sixth-century bows had grown to almost two meters in length, earlier bows had been just the right size for mounted archery.  By 500 or so, bamboo arrows were 80-85 cm. long, with iron tips weighing 25 gm.  One Japanese authority has argued that an archer could knock a rider off his mount at 100 meters."


* Armure et guerrier 2011 p93 (Thom Richardson, "Les armes et armures de l'époque Kofun à l'introduction des arms à feu," p91-97)
"Les armes utilisées au Japon au cours des époques Kofun (vers 250-538) et Asuka (538-645) s'apparentaient beaucoup à celles qui étaient portées en Corée et en Chine.  Des armures très similaires ont été en effet exhumées en Corée, le pays d'où fut vraisemblablement importée une grande partie des armures japonaises.  Le type le plus ancien, dont es exemples ont été trouvés dans de nombreux tombeaux de membres de l'élite, était constitué de plaques lacées ou rivetées.  Connu sous le nom de tankō, il remonte à l'armure cinoise liangdang (à plaques et cordons).  Il fut utilisé surtout par les fantassins armés d'arcs ou de lourdes lances (hoko)." ...
    "L'armure à structure lamellaire (keikō) est aussi originnaire de Corée, et c'est à partir de celle-ci que l'armure proprement japonaise fut mise au point."

* Art of the samurai 2009 p37 (Ikeda Hiroshi, "Japanese armor: An overview" p37-115)
"Historical records describe two types of body armor in use in Japan before the eighth century A.D.  The first, assembled from iron plates, is called tankō and has been excavated from tombs of the Kofun period (ca. 3rd-7th century A.D.).  The second type, known as keikō, is a flexible armor composed of small leather or iron plates (sane) linked together with cord.  Two kinds of helmets (kabuto) have also been excavated from this period: shōkakutsuki kabuto, with a sharp projection at the front resembling the prow of a ship, and mabizashi tsuki kabuto, with a quarter-moon-shaped brim at the front."

* Farris 1992 p19-22
"There were two types of armor: the solid iron cuirass (tankō) and lamellar armor (keikō).  The former may have been introduced from Southeast Asia and is seen on many clay figurines of sixth-century fighters.  Although it was composed of separate pieces of metal fastened together by leather or bolts, the cuirass permitted little freedom of movement, and lost its popularity after the year 400.
    "Lamellar armor was of Northeast Asian origin and was the accepted battle wear after 500 because it was lighter than the cuirass and allowed for greater mobility.  It was especially well-suited for mounted warfare.  About 800 pieces of iron went into each suit.  Fighters wore helmets with metal visors with both types of armor.  Decoration of armor with colored thread, leather, and cloth was common."

* Bryant/McBride 1991 p28
"The armour that has emerged from the kôfun is of two types: tight-fitting solid plate cuirasses of lamellar construction called tankô (literally 'short shell'), and a skirted cuirass of lamellar construction called keikô ('hanging shell').  These are names applied by modern armour historians; their original names are unknown."

* Royal Armouries Museum > Oriental Gallery
"Japanese armour  The armour brought into Japan in the 6th-8th centuries AD was made of iron plates laced together with leather thongs.  The earlier type, the tanko, is known mainly from Japanese burials; few examples from mainland China of Korea survive.  The later type, the keiko, is almost identical to the central Asian lamellar armour used by Mongols, and it is from this that the traditional Japanese armour developed."


* Art of the samurai 2009 p117 (Kazutoshi Harada, "History of the Japanese sword" p117-191)
"Finds in Japanese Kofun-period tombs include straight, single-edged swords (chokutō) as well as double-edged swords (ken).  Most of the chokutō from this early period have flat, ridgeless blades that are triangular in section (hira-zukuri).  Later in the Kofun we also find blades that are roughly trapezoidal in section and have parallel flat sides, one of which is sharply angled toward the cutting edge (katakiriha-zukuri).  Many were given wooden scabbards with gilt-copper fittings or were clad in thin silver sheet.  It is also possible that in rare cases scabbards were lacquered, but in general only the metal components survive."

* Armure et guerrier 2011 p93 (Thom Richardson, "Les armes et armures de l'époque Kofun à l'introduction des arms à feu," p91-97)
"Comme l'armure, le sabre japonais est originaire de Chine et de Corée. Les plus beaux sabres du Japon furent importés de l'Asie orientale continentale sous la dynastie des Tang, une période marquée par l'existence de liens culturels étroits entre la Chine et le Japon.  Les sabres imporés étaient des dao à lame droite à simple tranchant et à pommeau en anneau de bronze.  La courbure caractéristique de la lame du sabre japonais n'apparut que vers le milieu de l'époque Heian."

* Metropolitan Museum of Art > Stone Gallery of Arms and Armor
"Swords in Early Japan  The great burial mounds (kofun) of the Kofun period (from about the late 3rd to the late seventh century A.D.) have yielded a wealth of richly decorated swords.  The earliest of these, probably imported from China, have straight, single-edged iron blades, hilts with ring pommels and rudimentary guards; and scabbards with mounts that allowed the weapon to hang from the belt at an angle.  Obtaining iron from Korea, Japanese swordsmiths at first imitated these weapons so closely that it is extremely difficult to distinguish between the foreign originals and Japanese copies.  In the fifth or sixth century, however, new indigenous hilt types developed, including one with a very large, globular pommel.
"The straight-bladed jokotō (ancient swords) are thought to have been used mainly for thrusting.  The curved blade that characterizes later swords (Nippon-tō), which were ideal for slashing, seems to have developed in the late tenth century."

* Art of the samurai 2009 p124 (Kazutoshi Harada, "History of the Japanese sword" p117-191)
"The ken, a sword with a straight, double-edged blade based on Chinese prototypes, was used in Japan from at least the third to the sixth century A.D.  Beginning about the fifth century, the ken was gradually superseded by the straight, single-edged sword (chokutō), the type from which all later Japanese swords developed."

* Farris 1992 p19
"The standard sword (tachi) for Yamato fighters was a straight piece of tempered iron sharpened on one side.  Blacksmiths also forged double-edged swords (tsurugi), but their use was largely ceremonial.  Artisans formed sheaths of leather or even hemp cloth, sometimes with bone or horn added.  Archaeologists distinguish between two types of swords: the ring-pommeled sword imported from China via Korea (kantō tachi) and a straight sword (kubu tsuchi tachi) found mainly in the Kanto.  Mounted and foot soldiers alike employed swords as stabbing weapons."