Photo/IllutrationA complete skeleton of a horse from the fifth century on display at the Tsukawara Museum in Kumamoto (Masayuki Shiraishi)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

KUMAMOTO--For an archaeological dig, it was something of a jackpot find.

A complete skeleton of an equine dating back to the fifth century and unearthed here four years ago is on display at the municipal Tsukawara Museum.

The remains are the first from the Kofun Period (third to seventh century) to be discovered in the Kyushu region and only the third in the nation after those found in Osaka and Nagano prefectures.

Horses were a symbol of power for local warlords in those days.

"The find shows that horses existed in what is now Kumamoto at a time when horses were highly valuable," said an official of the city's cultural promotion division. "This area is open to the sea and is considered to have played a key part in negotiations with other countries."

Officials said the horse on display was probably considered a "special horse" because it was the only one buried with great care at the site.

The horse bones were unearthed from a stratum dating to the mid-Kofun Period at the Kamidaimachi archaeological site here in September 2016.

The horse was buried with its head facing west in an area 200 centimeters wide, 110 cm long and 20 cm deep. The equine, probably a male aged around 12 when it died, measured an estimated 125 cm in height.

The skull and parts of other horses, as well as a harness and a clay vessel used to produce salt as horse feed, were also unearthed, indicating that horses might have been raised at the site.

The remains will be on display through Feb. 24. The museum is closed on Mondays. If Monday falls on a holiday, it is closed the following day.