Elisabetta Colla
Lisbon University. School of Arts and Humanities. Assistant Professor

Shaman-shaped haniwa? Religious Practice, Ritual Landscape and Political Power during the Kofun period of Japan

During the Kofun-period of Japan (ca. 250–710 AD), diverse objects were used to support funerary ritual practices, among which the hollow clay artefacts called haniwa 埴輪 were particularly important. They were embedded in the ground outside mounded tombs, on top of kofun 古墳 outlining the burial area. The purpose of this paper is to analyse the anthropomorphic haniwa (jinbutsu haniwa 人物埴輪), with a special focus on the shaman-shaped clay figures (miko haniwa 巫女埴輪) and their paraphernalia. Haniwa are not only important as part of the burial ceremonies, but also representative of the cultural context of protohistoric Japan. Taking in consideration that materiality, societies and cultures are, in Ian Hodder’s words, entangled in a way that they are coproducts of each other, haniwa are not only visual resources on protohistoric Japan to be analysed in the wider Asian context, but also valuable artefacts helping the archaeologist reconstruct the religious practice, the ritual landscape and the political power structure of Kofun-period Japan. One question remains open: on the basis of a multidisciplinary approach, can one really assume that the so called "miko haniwa 巫女埴輪" were really representing shamans?

Keywords: Kofun; Haniwa; Shamanism; Archaeology of Death and Burial; Religious Practice in Protohistoric Japan.