A seven-year effort to recreate a rusty iron sword unearthed from a fifth-century tomb that was a gift from a legendary emperor has finally paid off.
The finished product reflects the beauty of the original blade, a national treasure named “Kinsakumeitekken,” that was unearthed in 1968 from the Inariyama burial mound in Gyoda, Saitama Prefecture.
X-rays done on the artifact in 1978 showed that a total of 115 characters were inscribed on each side of the blade.
The characters include the words “Wakatakeru Okimi,” who is assumed to have been the Emperor Yuryaku in the fifth century.
The replica blade faithfully recreates the original, including gold inlay of the letters.
The copy measures 58.5 centimeters and 3.7 cm at its widest point next to the sword grip. It weighs 560 grams.
The team members included noted artisans: Among them were swordsmith Norihiro Miyairi, sword engraver Shuha Hashimoto and sword polisher Okisato Fujishiro. Morihiro Ogawa, a special consultant on traditional weapons and armor with the U.S. Metropolitan Museum of Art, oversaw the project.
The team members created five prototypes, tempering and hammering the metal, by comparing swords unearthed from the Kofun Period (third century to seventh century).
In a final touch, Hashimoto engraved the characters on the sword the team selected.
Finding the right type of grinding stone from that era, which was essential to the production process, proved difficult.
The team X-rayed the ancient sword from the Inariyama mound to analyze the grinding work through marks remaining on the gold inlay to find a stone similar to the one originally used.
It was donated to the prefecture on Nov. 13.