The international origins of Japanese archaeology: William Gowland and his Kofun collection at the British Museum

Edgington-Brown, Luke (2016) The international origins of Japanese archaeology: William Gowland and his Kofun collection at the British Museum. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This thesis is an in-depth analysis of the Gowland Collection of Kofun period objects held by the British Museum. Throughout the text, the collection has been reorganised and interpreted through a careful study of its associated archive materials and its place in a historical context as both a late 19th century museum collection and as a 5th to 6th century AD Japanese Kofun period collection.

William Gowland sold his collection of Kofun period objects to the British Museum in 1889. As Gowland had an early interest in archaeology, this included carefully recorded objects from multiple sites, at a time in which archaeology as a scientific discipline was only just maturing in Britain. And at the same time, Kofun period artefacts and monuments were becoming increasingly important in Japan as they were used by the Meiji government to legitimise the historical validity of the emperor’s reclaimed authority.

Gowland and other westerners working in Japan in the late 19th century were studying previous Japanese scholarship and developing an interest in establishing a chronology of Japanese prehistory. They attempted to identify the origins of the Japanese as a people through the study of their material remains. Gowland as a metallurgist working at the Osaka Mint also had a particular interest in the adoption of metalworking and early production. Thus he developed an interest in the Three-Age system and ceramic technology. Using Gowland as a lens, we will touch upon multiple topics, including discussions of Japan’s prehistory, the utilisation and representation of archaeological objects and monuments at the end of the 19th century in Japan and the climate surrounding early archaeology in 1880s Japan. Following this we will go on to study Gowland’s methodology, its influence from early archaeology, geology and anthropology in Japan and the west and how this informed the first scientific excavation of Stonehenge in 1901.

This thesis is the product of an AHRC collaborative doctoral award in collaboration with a recent survey of the collection headed by Professor Ichinose Kazuo of Kyoto Tachibana University at the British Museum since 2009.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
Depositing User: Bruce Beckett
Date Deposited: 26 Jul 2018 08:45
Last Modified: 06 Oct 2018 00:38


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