Samurai warriors examined by Japanese and British scientists

Gruesome evidence of medieval Japanese Samurai warriors being decapitated, so that their heads could be taken as trophies by their enemies, is being examined by Japanese and British scientists.

In a bid to fully understand the nature of warfare in medieval Japan, Dr. Michael Wysocki, a specialist in forensic anthropology at the University of Central Lancashire, and Japanese scientists from Santa Marianna University, School of Medicine, near Tokyo, have been examining battle and decapitation trauma suffered by Samurai warriors in a 14th century Japanese civil war.

“The skeletal material is of huge importance in helping to understand the nature of warfare in medieval Japan,” said Dr. Wysocki of the University’s School of Forensic and Investigative Sciences.

The detailed examination of the skeletal remains – revealed in a special Channel 4 documentary, tomorrow evening – has yielded crucial new information on sword and arrow wounds, fighting styles, ritualized coup de grace death blows and the practice of taking heads as battle trophies.

The Samurai skeletons come from the ancient Japanese city of Kamakura where a key battle took place in 1333, in which literally thousands died. At the end of the battle, the remaining Samurai on the defeated side all committed ritual suicide. It’s the largest such event known from Japanese history.

The battle of Kamakura, 30 miles  south-south-west of modern Tokyo, was one of the most important events in Japanese history – a historical watershed that, in part, determined the political and social character of much of the country’s subsequent history.

The event helped transform Japan by inaugurating a long  era of civil conflict and political and military instability and de-centralization.

Prior to 1333, Kamakura, the city where the battle took place, had been the administrative headquarters of the Japanese government of that period, the so-called Shogunate, which had, for the previous 140 years, succeeded in greatly reducing the political power of the Japanese emperor.

But then, in 1333 the supporters of the emperor rose-up and defeated the Shogun’s administration – and, by doing so, undermined for many decades Japan’s capacity to sustain stable government .

“The sheer volume of human remains and the extraordinary historical background makes Kamakura one of the most significant sites in the world from a battlefield and conflict perspective,” said Dr. Wysocki.

Very large numbers of fighters had been beheaded – many almost certainly as a result  of trophy-taking practises by the emperor’s forces. In 14th century Japan, victorious warriors often only received rewards for success in war if they proved their achievements by presenting the decapitated heads of enemy warriors to their leaders.

Decapitated enemy heads thus became a bizarre currency of a military accounting process which rewarded victors only if they could furnish proof of their military accomplishments.

One of the skeletons, looked at in detail by Dr. Wysocki and featured in this Sunday’s Channel 4 documentary, is a probable female samurai. In the 13th and early 14th century, many Japanese women, under the Shogun’s rule, were relatively emancipated, enjoying virtually the same property rights as men, the right to inherit property and were, like men, required to perform military guard duties.

Investigations into the Kamakura skeletal material – excavated over many decades -  is continuing in Japan as part of efforts to shed greater light on what happened in the run up to 1333, during the battle and its aftermath.

Samurai: Back from the Dead, Channel 4, 8pm, Sunday, 18th September

Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
Paul McCartney backs the
people
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone