From Shibayama to Stonehenge: William Gowland – pioneer of archaeology in Japan and England

Tony Hisgett / CC BY 2.0

Thursday 8 October, 2020
5:00pm BST - 6:00pm BST

Society of Antiquaries of London


Professor Simon Kaner (Sainsbury Institute)

Dr Luke Edgington-Brown

About the Event

William Gowland, former Vice President of the Society of Antiquaries, is perhaps most famous for his excavations at Stonehenge at the start of the 20th century. Between 1872 and 1888, working at the Osaka Mint, Gowland established his archaeological credentials through a series of surveys and investigations of over 400 mounded tombs in Japan as well as visiting sites in Korea. Of particular significance was his meticulous excavation of the now long destroyed Shibayama mounded tomb. He published his findings in Archaeologia, the then journal of the Society. Some of the Japanese sites he studied are included in those inscribed in July 2019 as UNESCO World Heritage. Gowland was acutely aware of the significance placed on many of these tombs by the newly re-established imperial authority in Japan and, over a century later, the inscription of the Mozu-Furuichi mounded tomb group on Osaka on the World Heritage List, notwithstanding their status as the final resting places of imperial ancestors, makes a reassessment of their history of study timely, in particular given the abdication the Heisei Emperor and the succession to the Chrysanthemum Throne of Naruhito, the Reiwa Emperor.

This talk will also review some of the findings of the Gowland Project, which has spent the last decade studying the unique archive of kofun-related artefacts and associated materials held by the British Museum, where they were deposited by Gowland on his return to the UK following his sojourn in Japan. We will also look forward to a new exhibition, Stonehenge and Japan, at the Stonehenge Visitor Centre from September 2020, which forms part of the UK-Japan Season of Culture, marking Japan hosting the Rugby World Cup in autumn 2019 and the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2020. (This exhibition has been postponed due to the worldwide pandemic)

This online lecture is open to anyone but booking is essential. For more information on the lecture and how to book, please visit the Society of Antiquaries of London website.

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