r/history Jan 26 '23

Longest ‘dako’ iron sword at 2.6m, along with a unique shield-shaped mirror, found in 4th-century Japanese burial mound — Finds indicate that the technology of the Kofun period (300-710 AD) was more advanced than previously thought Article



u/Und3rSc0re Jan 26 '23

Thats a long sword, wonder who wielded this thing, Sephiroth?


u/birdmantis420 Jan 26 '23

These long swords were usually a show piece for blacksmiths, like an example of skill


u/sanndman Jan 26 '23

Forged in fire goes back to 300AD.


u/Bozee3 Jan 26 '23

There is a slight warp at the tang I liked to see addressed if you move on, but otherwise good work.


u/muskratboy Jan 26 '23

There’s a lot of meat left here so you should be able to grind it out.


u/TheRealJuksayer Jan 26 '23

Blacksmithing been going on for thousands of years


u/Velghast Jan 26 '23

Blacksmiths today make Bank. It's such a niche profession.


u/Laowaii87 Jan 26 '23

SOME blacksmiths make good money, but it is hell to get your business off the ground. Very few people need their services, so not only is your trade niche, so are your customers.

If you can get the word out, and you have a portfolio of good looking stuff, then yes, you can get paid absurd money for the right project. Every successful blacksmith has 99 dudes making nails and clothes hangers, toilet paper holders and similar ”neat to have” items they have to sell by the hundreds to stay in business.

Peter Jonsson sells his works for tens of thousands of dollars each, and some instagram smiths get tons as well, but these smiths are very much the exception.


u/baumpop Jan 26 '23

You just described the trade of blacksmithing for thousands of years. Almost all the work is small piece work to pay the bills while you take commissions or contracts for larger pieces. Every blacksmith was a ferrier before, now it's a standalone profession.


u/Laowaii87 Jan 27 '23

No, for thousands of years, blacksmiths were critical lynch pins for every settlement in the world.

This is literally the opposite of their position in our society post the industrial revolution.


u/baumpop Jan 27 '23

they were the lynch pins because they made literal lynch pins and other very vital but common place things. now obvious they are 1/1000 of the quality of they used to be but hinges for example while stamped on machines havent really changed much in a thousand years.

nails. for example were so crucial they used to burn down buildings just to recover the nails. once these nails were at their final end of life they were used to make doors and nailed over and into themselves through the door. Hence the term - dead as a doornail.


u/Laowaii87 Jan 27 '23

Yes, i know, this is literally the point i am making.

Modern blacksmiths do not make crucial items, they make, again, "neat to have" items. Nobody needs stuff made by hand by a blacksmith, because if you need the item, then it will be made cheaper by industrial methods.

So, i am not describing blackmithing for thousands of years. I am describing the place blacksmithing has in our modern, current society, which is a very niche trade, with very few customers. The only way for nearly all blacksmiths is either making bespoke items for rich people, assuming the smith has managed to make a name for themselves, or by making trinkets to sell at markets.

So a very small percentage of them are making a living, and an even smaller portion is "making bank".

And no, they did not "use to" burn down buildings with the express purpose of getting the nails. Buildings burning would always carry the risk of spreading the fire, which carries with it both material costs, and possibly cost of lives. Possibly in situations where houses had burned down, they would sift through the ashes for the nails, or if the entire building was enough of a wreck to leave the nails as the only part worth salvaging.

Aside from a few "i've heard stories of" i can find no sources to back the claim that houses were burned for this purpose, and having made nails by hand myself, i can tell you that it's not time consuming nor difficult. It is one of the first items i was taught to make while studying blacksmithing, and by the end of a week i was able to reliably make two or three nails in one "heat". This means that an absolute beginner can make 2-3 nails every minute, and a skilled nail maker could make twice that.

Good wood was also valuable, and if the house was in good enough shape that the nails were still of use, so would the wood have been.

As for dead as a doornail, it's not called dead because old nails were used for them, it's because when you make a staple out of it, the nail can't move. You deaden it. It's because the door would be a "soft" entry point into a building, and would have to be made sturdy in order to not break.

Finally, no, items made now are not worse than ones made by hand. The hinges you buy buy at Ikea or whichever hardware store you find it is likely much more reliable and economically made than most made a thousand years ago.

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u/probably_not_serious Jan 26 '23

The article said it was meant to protect the dead or something and that the size of the sword was to increase its “power.”


u/Bonesmash Jan 26 '23

While you’re probably correct, I have seen other absurdly long swords in museums before and the explanation was that they were really used more like spears. Seems like they would have been really heavy though.


u/danteheehaw Jan 26 '23

Good steel weapons are not as heavy as you'd think, because you can make a high quality steel fairly thin and strong. Japanese steel was extremely hard and rigid and armor was rare, so it being "brittle" (compared to soft steels) wasn't a problem.

As long as you're not swinging it like a sword a metal rod, or blade, won't feel much heavier than a quality staff or polear..

That being said, making a long ass sword to use as a spear instead of just making a spear would be weird as hell, and I could only see it being done as some dick swinging contest.


u/birdmantis420 Jan 26 '23

You’re not wrong, but this article is about specifically Japanese swords, and I’ve not heard of them being used as spears in Japanese warfare, as someone else pointed out, this one was possibly left to ward off evil spirits, meaning it was a show piece no matter what, not meant to be wielded


u/kaybee915 Jan 26 '23

You're probably right, but what if they dig up a giant near the sword? Then what!


u/Baneken Feb 02 '23

Ceremonial more likely -the most well known example is the so called Grass cutter-sword which is part of the Imperial Japanese treasury & regalia.


u/GenuineSteak Jan 26 '23

Almost certainly ceremonial or just for show.


u/Graekaris Jan 26 '23

It requires 18 strength to wield but it's worth it for the AoE cleave.


u/pufballcat Jan 26 '23

Maybe they told people that they had giant warriors, and made the sword to “prove” it


u/Redditor_From_Italy Jan 26 '23

A sword more than maybe ~15cm longer than its user is tall and heavier than ~6 pounds at most is not usable in combat and was most likely made to show off the blacksmith's skill and by extension his patron's prestige.


u/mano-vijnana Jan 26 '23

Like others have said, this one was ceremonial, but there were also other very long swords that were designed to hold horizontally two-handed while riding a horse, so the weight of the sword rested on the horse.


u/JohnnyElRed Jan 26 '23

I mean, do we need more proof that the nephilim were real? /s


u/NO_NOT_THE_WHIP Jan 26 '23

The owner was running a strength build


u/marketrent Jan 26 '23


The twin findings from the Tomio Maruyama Tumulus last November can be classified as national treasures, experts say, with the discovery of the shield-shaped mirror being the first of its kind.

The shield-shaped mirror is 64 cm in length, 31 cm in width at most, and weighs 5.7 kilograms.

The latest sword has markings of a sheath and handle, and together, its length measures 2.6 meters, more than dominating the last longest dako sword discovered at around 85 cm.

"(These discoveries) indicate that the technology of the Kofun period (300-710 AD) are beyond what had been imagined, and they are masterpieces in metalwork from that period," said Kosaku Okabayashi, the deputy director for Nara Prefecture's Archaeological Institute of Kashihara.


He called their discoveries a breakthrough in the research of the period, named for the "kofun" tomb mounds built for members of the ruling class.

Mirror and shields are considered to be tools to protect the dead from evil spirits. The sword is thought to have been enlarged to increase its power, and the possibility of its use as a battle tool is low, they said.

Riku Murase, 32, who was on the excavation team that discovered the objects, said the sword's length was so astounding that his team initially thought it was several swords. He also thought they had found a unique bronze plate.

"It was my dream to dig up a mirror. Who knew that it would be something so incredible," he said.

The Tomio Maruyama burial mound, the largest in Japan at 109 m in diameter and dating back to the late 4th century, is thought to have belonged to a powerful individual supporting the Yamato rulers of the time.

Kyodo, 25 Jan. 2023.


u/UBrokeMyMeissenPlate Jan 26 '23

The Biggoron sword and mirror shield were my immediate thought first reading the title lol


u/konvonrad Jan 26 '23

Just need to find the hover boots


u/GoldenMonkeyRedux Jan 26 '23

Thanks for posting this. I lived in Nara prefecture for years as a young man. I would pass by kofuns constantly and always wondered about what the interiors held.


u/Redditor_From_Italy Jan 26 '23

I wonder if they are in some way a depiction of the Kusanagi no Tsurugi and Yata no Kagami, the originals of which are supposedly owned by the imperial family


u/Baneken Feb 02 '23

My first thought was a ceremonial or religious importance as well.

It could have been cult item, since the size is really big for a sword and Iron was really expensive back then in Japan -and was in fact until the industrial era. Samurai didn't wear wood & Lacquered leather armor for fashion, you know.


u/n8thegr83008 Jan 26 '23

Looking glass knight?


u/cowsniffer Jan 26 '23

He'll summon you into the 4th century


u/ValerieFinn0 Feb 14 '23

Except he summons dark spirits


u/NorysStorys Jan 26 '23

Sounds like they found the Sword of Totsuka and the Yata mirror.


u/Dread_Awaken Jan 26 '23

I believe a lot of people think that humans thousands of years ago were idiots when, in reality, they were probably just as or even had the potential to be smarter.


u/Nixeris Jan 26 '23

I don't think people (especially archeologists) believe people were dumber. Just that they were working with less of an information base than modern humans. Technology is a steady build-up on top of previous construction, not completely new structures.

It should be noted that the comment about them being "more technologically advanced than we thought" is on a sliding scale here. They're saying that certain techniques are used in it that they didn't think they had till a little later, not that they were leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else technologically or using integrated circuits or something.


u/[deleted] Jan 26 '23



u/Fireonpoopdick Jan 26 '23

Not exactly rocket science, ancient astronaut theorists will probably use this as evidence that secretly this group of people got their more advanced metal from the stars obviously, not the materials, but the way to mine and turn them into a sword and shield, something obviously humans couldn't figure out in 700 AD, nope, definitely aliens.


u/Sandscarab Jan 26 '23

As ancient astronaut theorists contend.


u/Velghast Jan 26 '23

With such logical points like that how could it be anything else other than ancient aliens?


u/yesyesitswayexpired Jan 27 '23

Tomio Maruyama Tumulus making dubious claims. Can't pay the bills with dubious claims, we need more info, until then it's just speculation.


u/aemanthefox Feb 05 '23

Then this may put shintoism earlier than before


u/Franco_Fernandes Feb 08 '23

What's weird is that the sword is commonly referred as a "dako" in news sites, cited to be a kind of sword characterized by its "snake-like wavy shape". I can't find anything about those swords or references to them or otherwise any japanese swords with wavy shaped blades (most japanese swords do have wavy patterns on their blades, but not the blades themselves). Anyone knows where to find information about them?


u/ValerieFinn0 Feb 14 '23

Looks like the Celtic Battersea Shield, sorry if I got the name wrong

Also reminds me of the Looking Glass Knight from Dark Souls 2