The practice of building sepulchral earthen mounds and burying treasures with the dead was transmitted to Japan from the Asian continent about the third century A.D., and led to a significant change in burial customs. The bodies of the dead were interred in large wooden coffins placed in the tomb chambers. Buried with the deceased were such items as bronze mirrors, tools, weapons, personal ornaments, horse decorations, and clay vessels. The outer part of the burial mound was lined with stones.
Haniwa, literally “clay cylinders,” at times numbering in the thousands, were placed in rows at the base of the mounds and scattered on their crests or sloping sides. Sometimes the clay cylinders were topped with figures or animals. This infant boar shows the variety and range of expression achieved by the makers of haniwa. Although the reason for making this image is unknown, the large snout, curled body, and bound limbs of the small animal are the result of subtle observation and skillful hands.