Brief description of Kitora Tumulus

112The ceiling of the stone chamber of Kitora Tumulus displays a precisely drawn celestial map.

The celestial map drawn on the ceiling of the Kitora Tumulus stone chamber is the world’s oldest surviving scientific star map. It depicts the celestial equator and the ecliptic, which marks the path of the sun, and shows the Big Dipper plus other Chinese-style constellations considered to have strong magical powers. As traces left from the use of a compass have been found, it seems that while not completely accurate, the map was drawn from a practical astronomical chart. According to the chronicle Nihon shoki, astronomy came to attract strong interest in Japan from the Asuka period.