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Ancient dagger artefact link between Japan and northern China

Ancient dagger artefact suggests link between Japan and northern China

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Archaeologists in Japan were astonished to discover the molds for a dagger dating back nearly 2,500 years which bears a striking resemblance to artefacts found in remote areas of northern China.

The two siltstone dagger molds have a double-ringed pommel and a straight blade and would have been used by bladesmiths to cast both the handle and the blade as a single piece. However, the design has characteristics never seen before in Japan or even in the nearby Korean Peninsula.

They were found at the Kami-Goten archaeological site in Japan and likely date from between 350 B.C. and A.D. 300.

The 30 centimetre-long molds included saw-tooth and herringbone patters which are commonly seen on the surface of bronze bells unearthed in Japan and suggest that the molds were actually fashioned in Japan. However, their characteristics suggest they were influenced by Chinese design.

"The artifacts, likely modeled after bronze daggers of northern China, were probably made in Japan, although how the design got here is a mystery," said Harutaro Odagi, an associate professor of archaeology at Tenri University.

According to archaeologists, ancient Japanese daggers were of one type and were called the ‘slender bronze dagger’. They had a narrow section in the centre of the blade and the blades and handles were cast separately. 

By contrast, the latest finds resemble "Ordos daggers," or bronze artifacts manufactured and used by equestrian nomads in areas to the north of China, which cover today's northern Hebei province, northern Beijing and central and southern Inner Mongolia.  Ordos daggers have straight blades, are cast as a single piece, and have two pommel rings that imitate a pair of birds facing each other.

Hiroshi Yoshida, an Ehime University associate professor who is an expert on ancient bronze daggers, said: “the forces governing that area may have had Korean and Chinese connections since Japan's earliest days". It seems that the Japanese people learned from the overall design and attempted to make similar daggers on their own.

By April Holloway

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