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Haniwa Figure of a Shamaness

Asian Art

On View: Asian Galleries, West, 2nd floor (China)
In the beginning of the fourth century, a group calling themselves the Yamato migrated into Japan and Korea. The Yamato built mound tombs for their important dead, the largest tombs being for the emperors. The tomb chambers were filled with luxury goods meant to serve the deceased in the spirit world. Most of the artifacts found in Japanese Yamato tombs are nearly identical to their Korean contemporaries, the tombs of the Kaya and Silla kingdoms.

Haniwa, however, are unique to Japan. They are large, hollow, earthenware cylinders that were mostly positioned to line the edge of the tomb mound, their upper portion protruding above ground to mark the tomb. They are either plain or shaped like weapons, buildings, animals, or human figures and appear to have served as protectors and marks of status for the individual buried within. This haniwa represents a Shinto priestess who would have presided over the funeral ceremony of a Yamato chieftain. The figure is fragmentary: the arms are missing and, like almost all extant haniwa, it has been reassembled from shards.
MEDIUM Earthenware with traces of pigment
  • Place Made: Japan
  • DATES 5th-6th century
    PERIOD Kofun Period
    DIMENSIONS 18 x 8 3/4 x 7 1/2 in. (45.7 x 22.2 x 19.1 cm)  (show scale)
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Asian Galleries, West, 2nd floor (China)
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Marcus
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Haniwa Figure of a Shamaness, 5th-6th century. Earthenware with traces of pigment, 18 x 8 3/4 x 7 1/2 in. (45.7 x 22.2 x 19.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Marcus, 79.278.1. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 79.278.1_PS9.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 79.278.1_PS9.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2014
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Three-quarter length standing figure of a priestess, who would have presided over the funeral ceremonies of a Yamato chieftain. She wears a coat-like robe closed diagonally across the chest and having a flaring lower edge. She has a string of beads around her neck and a flat, crescent-shaped headdress. Material: Buff earthenware with traces of red iron-oxide pigment on the lower robe, neck, cheeks, eyebrows, and forehead.
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