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From the late 3rd century to the end of the 6th century, more than 200,000 tumuli (kofun) were built throughout the Japanese archipelago from the southern part of the Tôhoku region on the main island of Honshû to the southern part of the island of Kyûshû. These kofun were burial mounds for members of the ruling elite, possessing powerful political significance as monumental structures. A unique cultural tradition formed around them, for the scale, forms, and design of the kofun expressed both the sociopolitical structure and the relationships between regions in the Japan of those times, which has come to be known as the Kofun Period, as these structures are characteristic of an era which saw the emergence of a hierarchical political order in Japanese society. Kofun were built in a variety of sizes, forms, and styles, from relatively simple round or square mounds (empun or hôfun) to the more elaborate keyhole-shaped tombs, either rounded at the back (zempô kôen fun; hereinafter referred to as “rounded keyhole-shaped kofun”) or squared off (zempô kôhô fun). Yet throughout the Kofun Period, it was the rounded keyhole-shaped kofun that represented the highest class of tumuli and were built to the grandest scale. The distribution in the Ôsaka Plain and Nara Basin of immense rounded keyhole-shaped kofun with mounds ranging several hundred meters in length is believed to indicate that this region served as the nucleus of Kofun Period society. Especially noteworthy among the tombs of the southern Ôsaka Plain are the Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun. They consist of two tumulus clusters of Mozu and Furuichi built between the late 4th and early 6th centuries and have the largest kofun in Japan in scale and area. The Mozu cluster includes the Nintoku-tennô-ryô Kofun, the largest single burial mound in the world, with a central tumulus 486 meters in length and a total length, comprising the surrounding moat and ramparts, of 840 meters. This complex also includes the Richû-tennô-ryô Kofun, the third largest in Japan, with a tumulus 360 meters in length. Approximately 10 kilometers to the east of the Mozu cluster is the Furuichi cluster, which includes the Ôjin-tennô-ryô Kofun, the second largest in Japan, with a length of 425 meters. The Furuichi cluster also occupies and extraordinary position among the other tumulus clusters in Japan because it includes 11 other massive rounded keyhole-shaped kofun whose tumuli each measure more than 200 meters in length. One important characteristic of the Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun, Ancient Tumulus Clusters, is that they are a physical manifestation of the sociopolitical structure of the era in which they were built. The 2 tumulus clusters each include a variety of sizes and types of kofun: (1) rounded keyholeshaped kofun more than 100 meters in length, including the gigantic examples mentioned above; (2) rounded keyhole-shaped kofun, round kofun, and square kofun of around 50 meters in length; and (3) round and square kofun of around 20 meters in length. This diversity of structure and distribution within the tumulus clusters is a reflection of the stratified political and social structure of the period, suggesting a rigid hierarchy within the ruling class, and making the Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun an outstanding of the tumulus clusters representative of the Kofun Period. The kofun distributed throughout the Japanese archipelago from the southern Tôhoku region to southern Kyûshû, culminating with the massive rounded keyhole-shaped kofun described above, are characterized by differences in the scale and style of their tumuli that reflect sociopolitical stratification. Yet at the same time they had much in common in terms of building techniques and funerary practices, from the stone cladding (fuki-ishi) of the surface of the mound to the arrangement of clay figures (haniwa) on the mound itself and surrounding it. In this context, the Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun became the model for tumulus clusters built in other regions during the 5th century, serving as the point of origin for a set of common construction techniques and funerary practices that resulted in the construction of tumulus clusters in other regions that resembled miniature versions of the Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun. The late 3rd century to the end of the 6th century saw increased tension in international relations as China went from the Wei and Jin dynasties into the period of the Northern and Southern dynasties and the Korean peninsula saw the rise of the Three Kingdoms of Koguryo, Paekche, and Silla. Chinese records show that during the course of the 5th century, 5 successive “kings of Wa” (Wa no kokuô) sent emissaries to the Southern court in China and received documents of investiture as tributaries of the Chinese emperor. This period corresponded to the peak in scale of kofun construction in the Japanese archipelago as represented by the Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun, from which a variety of funerary accessories have been excavated that are the result of commerce with the other countries of East Asia: gold and bronze jewelry and horse trappings, iron weapons and military equipment, glass vessels, and so on. From the 7th century onward, parallel to the establishment of the Sui and Tang dynasties in China and the unification of the Korean peninsula by Silla, Japan also saw the establishment of an ancient state modeled on that of imperial China, and the Kofun Period drew to a close. The tumulus clusters of this period were deeply related to the changing sociopolitical environment of East Asia, and are indicative of the process by which the ancient Japanese state was formed. Thus, while the Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun, Ancient Tumulus Clusters, are immense memorial structures indicative of the process of formation of the ancient Japanese state within the context of the East Asian world at that time, the distribution of smaller tumuli around the massive kofun of the rulers is physical evidence of a unique cultural tradition reflecting the realities of political and social power, and present an outstanding and concrete example of the commonality of this cultural tradition throughout the Japanese archipelago. Immense burial mounds were built in many different parts of the world during the period of the formation of ancient states, and the Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun, Ancient Tumulus Clusters, are a cultural property that may be ranked among them. Thus, this property possesses Outstanding Universal Value, and its inscription on the World Heritage List would contribute significantly to affirming the balance and representative nature of the List.
From the late 3rd century to the end of the 6th century, more than 200,000 kofun were constructed in the Japanese archipelago. These monumental structures, which reached their apex with the rounded keyhole-shaped kofun, shared many elements in terms of their basic structure, but differences in scale and style indicated a clear status hierarchy, and possessed powerful political significance. As a result, a unique cultural tradition was established, in which the scale, forms, and design of these kofun reflected the political and social structure and relationships of the era. The Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun, Ancient Tumulus Clusters, are a representative example of this cultural tradition, and incorporate a group of the greatest kofun built in 5th century Japan, including the Nintoku-tennô-ryô Kofun, the largest burial mound in the world. This tomb served as an important foundation for the establishment of a common model for kofun construction throughout the Japanese archipelago during this period, representing an interchange of human values concerning the building of tombs for local ruling elites. Moreover, this stage in history was one in which, under profound influence from developments on the East Asian region, the ancient Japanese state was just beginning to spring up—making the Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun comparable to monumental structures in other regions of the world built during the period of the formation of ancient states. Thus, this property possesses Outstanding Universal Value.
(ii) The Kofun Period lasted from the latter part of the 3rd century to the end of the 6th century. During the period from the late 4th century to the first half of the 6th century, the Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun, Ancient Tumulus Clusters, were a model for many of the kofun constructed in other parts of Japan, serving as an important normative foundation for common techniques and styles of kofun construction throughout the country. Thus, the Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun, Ancient Tumulus Clusters, represent an important interchange of human values relative to the construction of burial mounds for the ruling elite of the Japanese archipelago during this historical period.
(iii) From the late 4th century to the first half of the 6th century, the Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun, Ancient Tumulus Clusters, represented the peak in the development of large-scale kofun, while the variety of smaller tumuli distributed around the major tombs are indicative of the existence in the Japanese archipelago of this period of a unique cultural tradition reflecting the realities of political and social power. Thus, the Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun, Ancient Tumulus Clusters, bear exceptional testimony to a unique cultural tradition concerning the tomb construction of the Kofun Period.
(iv) The Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun, Ancient Tumulus Clusters, are groupings of monumental structures built with the large-scale aggregation of labor made possible by the political power of the ruling elites of Japan during the late 3rd to the end of the 6th century, the period of the formation of the ancient Japanese state. This property includes not only the Nintoku-tennô-ryô Kofun, the largest burial mound in the world, but also a variety of other kofun of different sizes, forms, and design, from the large rounded keyhole-shaped kofun to smaller round and square kofun.
As a result, the Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun, Ancient Tumulus Clusters, are an outstanding example, even among other tumulus clusters, that is both representative and typical in its reflection of the political and social of Japan in the period from the late 3rd century to the end of the 6th century.
The dates of construction and cultural characteristics of the the Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun, Ancient Tumulus Clusters, have been clearly established by archaeological and documentary research, and each of the tumuli in the clusters has been preserved in excellent condition, guaranteeing the authenticity of the property. The Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun, Ancient Tumulus Clusters, include the three largest kofun in Japan, as well as other large-scale kofun that served as the models for kofun construction during the course of the 5th century in other areas. In addition, the property includes many representative and typical examples of smaller tumuli, contributing to the integrity of the property as a whole.
Similar large-scale royal tombs already inscribed on the World Heritage List include the Gyeongju Historic Areas (Republic of Korea, 2000), the Complex of Koguryo Tombs (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, 2004), the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor (People’s Republic of China, 1987), Memphis and its Necropolis – The Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur (Arab Republic of Egypt, 1979), Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis (Arab Republic of Egypt, 1979), and the Archaeological Ensemble of the Bend of the Boyne (Republic of Ireland, 1993). The Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun, Ancient Tumulus Clusters, possess a number of special characteristics, however: (1) the property includes a burial mound with the largest recorded area of any in the world; (2) the property is comprised not only of immense tumuli, but also many smaller kofun in a variety of sizes and forms, reflecting the social structure of the Japanese archipelago during the period of the formation of the ancient Japanese state; and (3) the tranquility and dignity of the property as a burial ground has been preserved down to the present day. In addition, the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty (Republic of Korea, 2009) resemble the Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun, Ancient Tumulus Clusters, in that they are a cluster of royal burial sites, but they are much more recent in date. The numerous medium and small-scale kofun distributed around the larger royal tombs in the Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun, Ancient Tumulus Clusters, making them a microcosm of the social structure of the era, is another point that makes this property different in form and nature from the Korean site. Thus, the Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun, Ancient Tumulus Clusters, possess outstanding features not found in other similar properties.